story by briannawessling
Twelve years of school and a future of a lifetime of research might seem intimidating to students who aren’t even completely sure of what their lunch schedule is. Unless, that is, they hear Maureen McGargill talk about her experience.
McGargill left Marian as a part of the Class of 1990 dead set on going to medical school and becoming a doctor, specifically a pediatrician. She attended Creighton University and started on a pre-med track. Everything was going smoothly, until she learned that being a doctor might not be the best future for her.
Upon this revelation, McGargill had to contemplate what she could do instead of becoming a pediatrician. She found that she still had an interest in biology and science, so she continued with graduate school at the University of Minnesota. At the University of Minnesota she worked in labs and found that she was interested in immunology, the study of the immune system. One of her teachers suggested that she do research, which she loved, and a whole new world of science opened up for her. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship in immunology at the University of California, San Diego.
Today, McGargill is working towards finding a cure for type 1 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She is also an associate
professor at the University of Tennessee. Her research can extend beyond just type 1 diabetes and to other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or MS. What she loves most about her job, however, is helping graduate students learn to navigate the lab and discover their passions.
“I was very impressed with her ability to take very complex research and make it understandable to people outside of her field,” science teacher Mrs. Tunink said.
This year, McGargill is the recipient of the Sr. Marcella leadership award. Named after the first principal of Marian, this award recognizes an alumna who exemplifies the success of a Marian education through her professional and personal achievements. She was presented with the award at the Esprit de Corps Awards Banquet on September 8.
The best piece of advice she gives high schoolers intimidated by the thought of going into a STEM career is to, “Be motivated by failure.” After all, if she hadn’t been willing to walk away from what she thought she wanted to do, she never would have found what she was meant to do.