Focus on Mentoring


Gracie Vargas, PhD
August 2020

Dr. Gracie Vargas received her PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She was recruited to UTMB in 2002 as an Assistant Professor and rose through the ranks to tenured Professor. As of September 1st, she will hold the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience after being a fellow of the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Chair in Neuroscience and Cell Biology.

An elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biolog-ical Engineering, Dr. Vargas is an internationally recognized expert in biomedical optics/biomedical engineering with committee service that guides the direction of national research in medical imaging and bioinstrumentation such as through multiple NIH study section membership in these areas. At UTMB, Dr. Vargas directs the Advanced Bio-Optics Imaging Lab, conducting research at the interface of engineering and medicine in the growing field of imaging sciences. Her highly collaborative research program focuses on developing new imaging approaches for epithelial cancer diagnostics, endomicroscopic evaluation of epithelial injury and inflammation in studies of women’s health, and study of neuroinflammation through intravital and large scale multiphoton microscopy enabled by optical clearing. Her research has been funded by NIH, NSF, Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas and other sources. She is currently funded by four NIH grants and an NSF grant and has a portfolio of over 60 peer-reviewed, primary research publications and a multitude of published book chapters, proceedings, and symposia.

In addition to her outstanding record of scientific innovation, Dr. Vargas is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of scientists. She teaches in both the graduate school and medical school and has designed and directed several new GSBS courses. Throughout her tenure at UTMB, she has trained over 60 mentees encompassing high school to graduate and postgraduate levels, with trainees receiving awards and advancing successfully into such positions as faculty appointments and postdoctoral fellowships. Currently, she is training three graduate students in her lab. Dr. Vargas is highly devoted to the advancement of students underrepresented in the sciences, spearheading efforts to increase diversity in science. She directs the UTMB Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREPing for SUCCESS), a yearlong research-intensive training program to increase the number of trainees from groups underrepresented in the sciences entering and completing PhDs in science. The recent competitive NIH funding for PREP allows continuation of the program to continue to increase the number of URM and disadvantaged students pursuing careers in science with a new cohort of trainees matriculating Fall 2020.

Dr. Vargas is making a definitive impact in mentoring and strengthening the diversity of the biomedical work-force. Her mentoring and research have enduring value, and she is a highly valued and respected member of UTMB and the community at large. Please join the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in celebrating Dr. Vargas as the August 2020 GSBS Focus on Mentoring designee.

Mentors: Past Highlights