Professor Margareta Hammarlund-Udenaes has probably met every single pharmacy undergraduate student who has studied at the Faculty of Pharmacy at Uppsala University during the last two decades. Many of these students have continued, much inspired by Margareta, to conduct a Master’s degree project within the field of translational pharmacokinetics (PK) and pharmacodynamics (PD) as well as pharmacotherapy. Of these, many have continued as graduate students with Margareta as their main supervisor.

The first graduate student (Marianne Ekblom) supervised by Margareta defended her thesis in 1992. Margareta’s last graduate student as a main supervisor (Erik Melander), defended his thesis exactly 30 years later in 2022. These two, and many more former PhD students, share in this Editorial small episodes from theirs graduate studies and reflect on what it has meant to them to be supervised by Margareta. What really stands out is how each and every one describes Margareta’s office as a warm and welcoming place for scientific discussions, as well a place they could go to after realizing that data did not look like expected, when experiments did not turn out the way they had hoped for, or just when their studies for one reason or the other felt difficult. Margareta would be calm and kind, and quite often respond with something wise such as “The data doesn’t lie” or “We are still confused, but on a higher level”, which clearly indicated that she believed in the experiment (and in us!), but that we just had to do one more round of thinking. This thorough way of working with attention to details, to never make hastily assumptions that cannot be verified by real data is very typical for Margareta and something she has passed on to her students.

In addition, Margareta has had a mission with her and her students’ research. She wants the pharmaceutical community and especially the pharma industry to measure the correct parameters, e.g. unbound drug concentrations rather than total drug concentrations, concentrations at the target site rather than at a site where samples can be easily obtained from. Further, experimental data should be quantitative. In meetings, conferences and other gatherings, it may not be Margareta who asks the largest number of questions and comments on fellow scientists’ presentations. However, when needed she will speak and it is quite remarkably how the community will listen. She has made sure that the respect she has acquired in the scientific community has been transferred to her students and their work, and this is something we are very grateful for. For example, Margareta always introduces her students properly to her fellow scientists, and ensures that the students who have contributed to the data discussed are properly acknowledged. She has in all possible ways facilitated our own careers as pharmaceutical scientists, regardless of whether it is in industry or in academia.

Besides Margareta’s high standards regarding experimental design, data quality, thorough analysis and honesty when reporting results, we have also had the privilege to be mentored by someone who clearly wanted us to grow as persons outside science. It is apparent from the reflections below, that Margareta has been able to “personalize” her supervisor style so that it has matched the individual student. This capacity to adopt is a true sign of both talent and plasticity, especially since her students have come from very diverse backgrounds, carried different experiences with them, and because of this, faced very different challenges as PhD students in Swedish academia.

Marianne Ekblom, Acquired PhD in 1992, Retired from Merck Serono, Geneva, Switzerland

My collaboration with Margareta started during her post doc at UCSF in San Francisco. Shortly after this, I became her first PhD student at the Department of Biopharmaceutics, Uppsala University. Early on, the microdialysis technique with the possibility to measure unbound concentrations was of high interest and the very first steps were taken to develop the technique for PK/PD measures. Today, 30 years later, it is clear that this technique became a very important piece of Margareta’s scientific contribution. As a supervisor, Margareta was open-minded, friendly and showed a high capacity scientifically. At the same time, she was also engaged in many different things outside the department. However, she always made herself available if something had to be taken care of. We had frequent discussions and she gave constructive advice, many times in the form of ‘problem-oriented teaching’. The most valuable advice she gave me was about the importance of keeping a high scientific standard, and to be very strict and constructive when writing a scientific text. This is something I have tried to follow during my different positions within the pharmaceutical industry and the regulatory agency. Overall, the education received during my time at Uppsala University became very valuable for the rest of my life.

Gunilla Osswald, Acquired PhD in 1994, Presently at BioArctic, Stockholm, Sweden

Margareta inspired me from the first lecture she held during my pharmacy undergraduate studies, which led to my aspiration of becoming an external PhD student. I am grateful for her flexibility to accept an external PhD student working in the pharmaceutical industry in parallel with the PhD program. All the scientific discussions we had contributed to my scientific and personal growth. Margareta’s relentless effort to encourage me to really understand the biology and the physiological aspects in the scientific questions we tried to elucidate. Her mentoring and education contributed to my personal development and as an independent scientist. Margareta has played a very important role in my professional career both scientifically, pedagogically and in the development of my leadership capabilities. She is one of my three role models with a strong influence on me when building and shaping my own leadership style. She is visionary, inspirational, pedagogic, courageous, and thorough. She stands for quality. I also want to thank Margareta for all the wisdom and fun times we have enjoyed together.

Marie Gårdmark, Acquired PhD in 1998, Presently at RegSmart Life Science AB, Uppsala, Sweden

Taking the decision to continue at the university as a PhD student was an easy choice after having worked in Margareta’s group as an undergraduate. She certainly made the field of PK/PD research exciting and open for new discoveries, and even if I later moved into other fields of drug development, I still use the experience I gained during those years. Recently, in relation to a scientific project, I had the opportunity to read some of Margareta’s well-cited publications on blood-brain barrier (BBB) transport. It is fantastic that those early ideas of Margareta now are translated into well-defined models that bring value to the drug development research process. Forever stuck in my memory is when we gathered in Margareta’s house to review our draft articles, both of us with a child in our laps. We had deadlines to meet, and we did make it. All through my PhD studies I always felt that Margareta had trust in me. She encouraged my ideas, she let me fly on my own knowing that she was there to prevent a hard landing if needed. Margareta has been a true role model as a female leader and she has worked hard for the things she believed in. In the 1990s, women in senior scientific positions at the University were few. Today, women have a stronger position in the scientific environment, and I believe that Margareta has been important in making that happen.

Rujia Xie, Acquired PhD in 2000, Presently at Pfizer, Singapore

I am so grateful and privileged that my first studying and working experiences abroad were under Margareta’s supervision. Margareta guided me into PK of BBB transport, application of microdialysis, and PK/PD modelling research fields that has positively impacted my career path and development. With her great help and support, I was able to enter the new research areas quickly as a beginner. Margareta’s strong and deep knowledge in PK and PD, strategic thinking in research planning, inclusiveness, stimulation, positive attitude, and high scientific standard in many aspects inspired and encouraged me to face various challenges. She always made her available for the meetings and discussions to provide constructive suggestions and opinions. Margareta is an exceptional mentor in developing and influencing people. To broaden my knowledge in BBB transport and strengthen my technical skills, Margareta initiated a collaboration with Professor de Lange in Leiden University to deeply understand the role of P-glycoprotein in BBB transport. That was a fruitful and amazing working experience. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Margareta for her continuously encouraging, supporting, caring, and understanding for the years worked together and beyond.

Karin Tunblad, Acquired PhD in 2004, Presently at Medivir, Huddinge, Sweden

I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to join Margareta’s team as a PhD student in 1999. I learned a lot about microdialysis, transporters and the BBB, but also to be an independent scientist. The door to Margareta’s office was always open and I have good memories of our scientific discussions and the atmosphere of sharing knowledge that we had. Margareta took the opportunity to apply for financial support from the Swedish Foundation of Strategic Research for my PhD studies. This was successful and led to a collaboration with Per Ederoth and Carl-Henrik Nordström, who introduced us to the world of clinical microdialysis. That was certainly exciting and a highlight for both of us! Almost 20 years have passed since I worked with Margareta, and I have benefitted a lot from the experience I had during those years, both in private life and in different roles in the pharmaceutical industry.

Anubha Gupta, Acquired a PhD in 2006, Presently at GlaxoSmithKline, United Kingdom

Margareta, was not only my supervisor for my PhD but she has been a mentor in the introduction of the western world to me. Sweden was the first country I visited outside India and Margareta supported me all the way during my PhD and beyond. She aimed to develop the scientist in me and encouraged independent thinking and always provided opportunities which helped me to grow professionally, e.g. by attending conferences, presentations and leading group discussions. She taught me to be proud of the work I do and believe in myself. Her organization skills and being ambitious and pushing boundaries as a woman always motivated me. She is a true mentor and a leader that shaped my carrier and prepared me for the life ahead. I am very grateful and honored that I got the opportunity to work with her.

Emma Boström, Acquired PhD in 2007, Presently at BioArctic, Stockholm, Sweden

Being a PhD-student comes with growth, both within science as well as a person. In this maturation process, one integral part is building knowledge and another being able to understand the implications and applications of that knowledge. Margareta is a dedicated educator that has taught me many things, one of them being the emphasis to understand where the data was originating from to understand its strengths as well as limitations. She encouraged her PhD students to generate own data to understand the full set of assumptions that goes with the numbers in the end – and then see how the data fits the bigger picture. The sense of quality and thorough understanding of the meaning of the data and its context is fully in line with Margareta’s determination to always have a very high quality in every step of her research. I much appreciate her visionary mind-set, encouragement and the many aha-moments during our discussions, both related to life and to science.

Stina Syvänen, Acquired PhD in 2008, Presently at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

Although I probably did not understand it back in then, Margareta’s supervisor style from the start to the end of my graduate studies aimed at transforming me into an independent scientist. She encouraged me to follow my ideas, but when relevant she questioned experimental designs and conclusions. When talking to other researchers I realize that many students with more traditional supervisor-student settings have explicitly been told what to do and in what way, and how results should be interpreted. This was never the case during Margareta’s and my meetings. In line with this, Margareta always gives ‘credits’ to her students, for example by letting them present at international conferences. I deeply respect Margareta for this! During the years that have passed since my PhD defense, I have continued to see Margareta as one of my most important mentors in research and I am grateful for all the help and advices she has passed on to me which have facilitated me to navigate in the academic jungle, an environment that is not always so easy and transparent to newcomers.

Malin Alenius, Acquired PhD in 2009, Presently at the Health and Medical Care Administration of Region, Stockholm, Sweden

When I think of Margareta there are two characteristics that especially come to mind. The first is her integrity, which impressed me already as an undergraduate pharmacy student, when she very calmly but firm pointed out an injustice done by some of the students towards another student. I was not involved in the scene myself, but the memory of how well she handled it, has stayed with me. The second is her razor-sharp intellect. This was something that I could appreciate in our discussions when she often could help me find the way through a difficult bump in the PhD road. She would also force me to excel myself by finding the weak spots in my papers and help me to overcome them. The thing that amazed me most in this was that even though my thesis topic was ‘pharmacotherapy of psychotic patients’, which was not her main topic of expertise, this did not hinder her from seeing the scientific gaps that sometimes lingered in the papers. She has has been a source of inspiration in my own career.

Markus Fridén, Acquired PhD in 2010, Presently at AstraZeneca, Gothenburg, Sweden and Co-Opted Senior Lecturer at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

“Rarely will you have reason to apologize”, said Margareta as we were authoring a message to one of our collaborators on a project. Those were just words in passing but they have remained with me ever since. In fact they pretty much carry me through every day of fast paced work-life, lending me rest and comfort in knowing that I have actually done my very best. The episode above spotlights an aspect of Margareta’s leadership: every meeting is an opportunity for learning. It has been learning for myself definitely, but it appears Margareta is also looking for answers. This I believe is hallmark of a great mentor and I have been so fortunate to have Margareta as such for many years beginning but not ending with my PhD training. In the early years I was intrigued that she would let me start working on projects I had come up with despite that she didn’t believe herself that those projects would deliver. As I failed to prove her wrong this turned to admiration and respect. Even further down the line, I now realize that Margareta has been demonstrating something above and beyond great mentorship, scientific advice and inspiration – she’s been a frontier in modern leadership. Her success in driving change in her fields of play can be attributed to her ability to create a feeling of belonging and purpose and by focusing on you (and your development) above the results you are delivering. If there is one thing I’d like to accomplish in my own work-life it is probably to be able to pay that forward.

Muhammad Waqas Sadiq, Acquired a PhD in 2012, Presently at AstraZeneca, Gothenburg, Sweden

My years as Margareta’s PhD student was a transformational journey for me both as a scientist and a person thanks to the guidance and supervision of Margareta. Soon after joining the research group I realized that I am a part of no ordinary research group, instead more like a research “family” built around the caring, positive attitude and encouraging leadership of Margareta. As a mentor Margareta made sure that during my PhD, I had exposure to the broader scientific world and possibility to connect with the very best scientists in the field. She always spared her time, whenever I showed up with a scientific or personal problem to discuss without a booked meeting time. As a scientist I always found Margareta an institution in herself with unmatched scientific vigor, courage, curiosity and open mindedness. She has always been a source of inspiration and I am forever thankful to her for the opportunity of being her PhD student.

Annika Lindqvist, Acquired PhD in 2016, Presently at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

Before starting as a Master student in Margareta’s lab, I had not considered to go for a doctoral degree or continue as a researcher in academia. Margareta made me believe that my work was important, but at the same time not too important to overlook other things in life. Her ability to balance supervision and individual freedom and responsibility, allowing me to work independently but at the same time always feeling that she had my back if needed and an open door for discussions and support, has been of high importance for my continued work life. During conference trips together, Margareta spent a lot of time and effort on introducing us students to her friends and giants in the field, welcoming us into a family of researchers and showing what can be achieved together, putting science first and egos aside. Margareta has a passion for PK and for how both the drug development process and clinical usage can be improved by the use of basic concepts. She succeeded to transfer this interest to me, and I’m now trying to pass these ideas and knowledge further in my every day work. I’m happy to feel that I now can make a difference for many small drug discovery programs throughout Sweden, by using the tools I have earned thanks to Margareta.

Sofia Gustafsson, Acquired a PhD in 2018, Presently at BioArctic, Stockholm, Sweden

From the day when I first met Margareta she was honest from start, straightforward while still a visionary. Little did I know that she, calm as always, offered me a ticket to a roller coaster; A ride called PhD studies. Something that struck me from the start was that when I was shouting and keeping my breath during that roller coaster ride, she always sat calm next to me, possibly ascertaining that we both were buckled up. That peaceful aura that she eradiates is a quality in mentorship. I will never forget entering Margareta’s office, me always arriving unannounced, asking for a minute or two. Her blue armchair mirroring her eyes, looking at the data that I was presenting and telling me “well, the proof is in the pudding”. In times of distress, she also looked at me and raised her arms to the sides and above her head saying “We can make it! We will make it!”. Those words keep coming back to me both in work and in life. Margareta surrounds herself with honest people, goodhearted and with strong mindsets, just like Margareta herself. A lesson learned from these role models in science is that you can make it on your own, but we are stronger together.

Nebojsa Mihajlica, Acquired a PhD in 2018, Presently at the Swedish Medical Products Agency, Uppsala, Sweden

It has been a great honor and privilege to be Margareta’s PhD student and to work within the translational PKPD group. I still have saved notes from Margareta’s and my very first meeting in Uppsala when she introduced me to the research group and the way of work. Ever since that day I have been amazed by Margareta’s broad knowledge and the way she shares it, her patience and kindness. Margareta taught me how to approach scientific questions and how to solve them. She made everything look simple even when we had to deal with very complex tasks; as we would sometimes say at our group meetings: “We are still confused, but on a higher level”. Knowledge and experience gained during my PhD studies is not only applicable to my daily work as a pharmacokineticist. I will always appreciate the opportunity she gave me to broaden my scientific horizons, but also to develop as a person as well as to travel around the world to different continents and share the science.

Yang Hu, Acquired a PhD in 2019, Presently at Boehringer-Ingelheim RCV, Vienna, Austria

From the first time I met Margareta during a video interview, I knew that she was going to be a great supervisor. She was the primary reason why I moved from China to Sweden to pursue a PhD. I really love Margareta’s supervision style. I was never “pushed” to generate data but was given enough independence and freedom to control my own pace during my PhD. This has really helped me to develop my own ideas and grow as an independent scientist. Margareta also gave me numerous opportunities to travel worldwide to present my research work and discuss science in international conferences, which truly broadened my scientific outlook and developed my scientific presentation skills. Moreover, I have been amazed by Margareta’s ability to break down complicated issues and quickly identify the solutions. This has always made our project and manuscript discussions efficient, inspirational and enjoyable. Margareta’s passion for developing new PK concepts and methodologies to improve drug discovery and drug development has significantly impacted my career choice. As a DMPK scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, I am now trying to further apply these concepts and methodologies in my daily work. I feel excited that I can now contribute to drug discovery programs with the knowledge and experience I have gained from Margareta.

Erik Melander, Acquired a PhD in 2022, Presently at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

The first time I met Margareta was when she lectured about PK during my undergraduate studies, and almost immediately I decided that this was a field I wanted to learn more about. Margareta became a steady point in what was a rollercoaster of a PhD-project, and her immense patience and open minded attitude about strange results contributed to making me a better and more independent scientist. I remember her telling me “the data doesn’t lie” after an unexpected outcome of a study, and that our task was to understand why the data looked the way it did. The way Margareta cares for her students, and creates a warm and familiar work environment is phenomenal and it is my firm belief that this has played an important part in the success of her research. I would like to thank Margareta for accepting me in her group as her last, as main-supervisor, PhD-student, and I am thankful for everything she taught me.

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At the Cerebral Vascular Biology (CVB) meeting in Melbourne in 2017. Back: PhD students Nebojsa Mihajlica, Erik Melander and Yang Hu. Front: PhD student Sofia Gustafsson, Margareta Hammarlund-Udenaes and Irena Loryan.