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Professional Profile: Altair Galgana-Wood

Lab Manager speaks to Altair Galgana-Wood of Studio8 Architects

MaryBeth DiDonna

MaryBeth DiDonna is managing editor, events for Lab Manager. She organizes and moderates the webinars and virtual conferences for Lab Manager as well as other LMG brands, enabling industry...

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Altair Galgana-Wood is an architect at Gensler. Lab Manager recently spoke with Altair about her career, experience, and personal interests.

Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers mid-stream, etc.?

A: I majored in architecture at the University of Houston, and the summer before graduation, I took part in a summer internship program which allowed us to select a market sector team to take part in. Living in the Energy Capital of the World, I chose the Science and Technology team, which focused on lab, industrial, and mission critical projects. During that internship, I found a passion for these building types, which allowed me to take part in the cutting edge of the future—and I've been doing it ever since!

Q: What is a typical day at work like for you?

A: My day typically starts with getting caught up on any emails that have come in since the previous day, and making sure I address any urgent items before I start tackling the day ahead. 

Mid-morning, I get connected with my teammates to make sure we're in a good place for any upcoming client or coordination meetings, and that our presentation materials are ready to go. Following these meetings, I send out meeting notes and markups, and connect with internal and consultant teams to get everyone in alignment. 

Mid-afternoon, I take a brain break with a cup of my favorite gingerbread tea, and finish the day checking in on my other projects, to make sure they are going smoothly. These projects are typically under construction and need less active management, so I give feedback and responses as needed to keep the project moving forward. 

Right before going home, I jot down a few notes on items I need to follow up on, then I close my notebook to mentally and symbolically "close shop" for the day.

Q: What’s a common misconception about your job?

A: That architects and designers only care about things "looking good". In reality, we are always trying to give our clients the best possible solution that meets their functional needs while maintaining a high level of aesthetic. This is especially true in lab design, where the processes we design for are programmatically complex, requiring extensive coordination and infrastructure, yet must remain people-friendly and pleasant to occupy.

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?

A: My favorite building would have to be the new Austin Public Library by Lake Flato. I love their fresh take on what a library should be in the 21st century. The rooftop terrace provides incredible views, and the way the building is nestled into the landscaping and topography makes it feel at home in the community. I find something new to love about it every time I visit.

Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?

A: In my downtime, I enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons—my group has had to go virtual because of the pandemic, but are still forging ahead. I am also a big fan of anime and manga (that would be non-Western animated and drawn cartoons). When I'm not busy geeking out, I do enjoy camping, bouldering, container gardening, and spoiling my cat.