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UCSF Professor Named as UC Merced Dean of Natural Sciences

March 14, 2002

MERCED, CA — Maria G. Pallavicini, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, has been selected as the founding Dean of Natural Sciences at the University of California, Merced. Announcing the appointment today, UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said Pallavicini officially will assume her role as the academic and administrative leader of the Division of Natural Sciences on July 1, 2002.

“A national search indicated that our colleague from UCSF was the best person to lead the development of our Division of Natural Resources,” said Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey. “Her scholarly accomplishments, her commitment to teaching, and her extensive public service are exceptional, and she thoroughly understands the issues and needs involved with the creation of this new campus.”

Currently a faculty member in the UCSF Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Radiation Oncology, Pallavicini holds a concurrent position as a member of the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center. Among her many scholarly activities, she sits on the intercampus Task Force on UC Merced as a representative of the UCSF Academic Senate and on the UC Merced Science and Engineering Building Advisory Team.

At UCSF, Pallavicini is responsible for a sizeable research program amounting to approximately $1.4 million in grant support from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and foundations during 2001-2002.

Her current research focuses primarily on understanding the genetic and functional changes that contribute to malignancies, particularly leukemia and breast cancer. Pallavicini uses mice to investigate the relationship between genetic damage induced by chemical exposures and cancer development, and mouse models of cancer to test novel agents for breast cancer therapy. Her laboratory was the first to demonstrate that cytogenetic changes leading to myeloid leukemia most likely originate in primitive stem cells.

In her new position, Pallavicini will work with Dean of Engineering Jeff Wright and the yet unnamed dean of the Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts to recruit the founding faculty and build a strong academic foundation for the 10th UC campus. Pallavicini said she is highly committed to developing a diverse faculty and encouraging students from under-represented populations to participate in the sciences.

Her primary responsibilities also include development of the initial academic curricula and programs for the division, which will be rooted in such basic disciplines as biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics while encouraging active, interdisciplinary collaborations that advance science in new directions.

“Because UC Merced is a clean slate, I see the potential to design a truly innovative educational and research environment and find that prospect very stimulating,” Pallavicini said. “With a strong academic base and through cross-disciplinary curricula and research, this campus will be able to develop new technology-based educational and research approaches and inter-institutional partnerships to advance science into the future. The opportunity to bring these programs to the students and community of the San Joaquin Valley is timely and very exciting. I am honored to play a role in the development of UC Merced.”

According to Pallavicini, the presence of a UC campus and its accompanying intellectual capital will provide an economic advantage to the region.

“Much of California's economic success has resulted from achievements in technology and science, which are strongly associated with the University of California,” she said. “The UC Merced campus will provide opportunities for the on-campus and community populations to become actively involved with the next generations of technological and scientific advances. In turn, the San Joaquin Valley will have the opportunity to benefit economically in the way the rest of the state has done.”

Pallavicini's commitment to UC Merced started in 2000, when she became a member of the University of California Academic Senate's Task Force on UC Merced. With representation throughout the University system, the Task Force serves as the UC Academic Council's primary advisory body on campus development and provides academic direction and consultation on other issues for UC Merced administrators.

Her experience with the University of California began at UC Berkeley, where she earned her bachelor's degree in biochemistry in 1973, then furthering her academic pursuits by earning a doctoral degree in pharmacology from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 1978.

Following, Pallavicini began work as a post-doctoral scholar at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto before returning to the University of California — this time to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where she worked as a biomedical scientist in the Biomedical Sciences Division from 1978 to 1991.

Joining the UCSF campus as an associate professor in the Departments of Laboratory medicine and Radiation Oncology in 1991, Pallavicini was promoted to the rank of professor in 1994. She has been a member of the UCSF Cancer Center since 1996 and is a member of the UCSF Biological and Medical Informatics Graduate Program. Additionally, Pallavicini served as a senior scientist in biology at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 1992 through 1997.

She has an extensive publication record, has delivered approximately 40 invited scientific presentations internationally and nationally, and holds three patents.

During her career, Pallavicini has held several administrative and academic policy posts, including those of chair and vice chair of the UCSF Graduate Council. She served as secretary of the UCSF Academic Senate; was a member of the UCSF Strategic Planning Board, the UCSF Mission Bay Campus Planning Committee and the Academic Senate Coordinating Committee; and has contributed extensively to multiple aspects of animal-use policies at UCSF. She is a strong advocate for junior faculty development and mentoring programs. In addition, she is a member of a number of national and international advisory panels for cancer research and serves as an editor and member of editorial boards on scientific journals.

UC Merced currently employs more than 90 educators and professionals. With the main campus scheduled to open in fall 2004 to serve 1,000 students, UC Merced ultimately will grow to serve 25,000 students over the coming decades. UC Merced also contributes to educational access throughout the entire San Joaquin region via educational and outreach centers in Fresno and Bakersfield, and through the Tri-College Center in Merced. An additional UC Merced center is planned for Modesto.