Excellence in Lab Safety Program

Program Description

The Excellence in Laboratory Safety Awards program is a recognition program for labs that have a record of exemplary safety performance. The purpose of the program is to recognize research laboratories with outstanding safety compliance that also encourage a culture promoting lab safety. The awards are presented annually in March.

2020 Excellence in Laboratory Safety Awards


On March 6, 2020, Vice Dean for Research, School of Medicine, David O. Morgan, and Vice Chancellor of Research, Lindsey A. Criswell, recognized six UCSF research groups for their excellent safety cultures: The Basbaum, Gustafson, Kao, Lue, Solomon and Zikherman labs. These labs demonstrated their commitment to safety practices and their constant attention to laboratory safety compliance.


This year, Dr. Aimee Kao’s lab was awarded the second annual Excellence in Laboratory Safety Award grand prize. The Kao lab, located at UCSF’s Sandler Neuroscience Center, studies the basic pathological mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s frontotemporal dementia, and related disorders.  By using C. elegans, human cell lines, and human brain tissues, they’re working to translate findings into treatments and preventions.


The Kao lab was recognized for their outstanding proactive and preventive safety practices. Dr. Kao nurtures a safety mindset by emphasizing respect, transparency, and clear communication with her lab members in a ‘family atmosphere’. In addition to one-on-one followup with lab members, the Kao team holds weekly lab meetings to highlight any safety concerns and members are encouraged to ask questions and be curious.  Dr. Kao and her lab manager, Andrea Argouarch, developed an impressive safety component for their new employee orientations. Andrea is essentially the “gatekeeper” to safety in the lab — ensuring that everyone is provided with knowledge and resources to conduct their experiments safely and efficiently.  To train lab members on appropriate rules and guidelines, Dr. Kao created a “Tissue Culture School” that new members must complete before receiving a training certification specific to their work in the lab.


Andrea plays an important role in collaborating with EH&S and their Department Safety Advisor (‘DSA’), Dennis Tsang, for safety compliance and communications. Andrea approaches safety with a positive attitude and promptly corrects findings when identified. Outside of the laboratory, Andrea has initiated styrofoam pick-up and recycling as well as researching ways to reduce single waste plastics.  The idea of “global safety” plays a role in how they function by touching on topics such as ergonomics, recycling, safety on campus, and personal well-being.  Her goal is to set a positive example for their colleagues and other laboratories. 


The Kao lab is proud of their lab culture of excitement, loyalty, creativity, and drive for curiosity in research! Read more about the Kao Lab.


The “Excellence in Laboratory Safety” Awards is in its second year as UCSF Campus research recognition program. This annual lab safety award recognizes and rewards laboratories with outstanding safety records that also promote a culture of safety. Safety is everyone’s responsibility!


To maintain a positive safety culture, Principal Investigators and lab managers are encouraged to:

  • Facilitate open communication about safety in their lab
  • Ensure everyone receives proper safety training
  • Act as a good safety role model
  • Incorporate safety practices into their work


Lab members also have specific responsibilities:

  • Complete safety training on time
  • Be mindful of potential hazards in the lab
  • Keep work areas organized and safety equipment (e.g., fume hood, biosafety cabinet) functional
  • Do not consume or store food or drink in the lab
  • Provide proper labels/tags for hazardous materials and waste
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)  
  • Help others recognize and correct potentially unsafe behaviors


To find out how to improve safety compliance and safety culture in your lab, contact your Department Safety Advisor (DSA).


Each year, six winning labs receive awards, including $100 for each lab manager ($200 for grand prize winner), $25 gift cards for each lab group member and framed certificates. In addition, the grand prize winning research group brings back to their lab a special trophy to display (see photo). All campus research laboratories that have been inspected by an EH&S DSA over four consecutive quarters are eligible. More details can be found on the Lab Safety Awards page.



Each year, one lab will be chosen to be added to the grand prize trophy.

2020 Lab Award Trophy

Kao Lab is the Grand Prize winner of UCSF’s 2nd annual Excellence in Lab Safety Awards.


EHS Categories

Lab Safety