Where Are They Now: Maddie Hurwitz Aims for Medical School, with Many Adventures Along the Way

By Samuel Lopez, staff writer; photos courtesy of Maddie Hurwitz
Photo of Maddie Hurwitz with Williams College's mascot, Ephalia, a large purple cow

Former intern Maddie Hurwitz (right) with Williams College’s mascot, Ephalia.

Maddie Hurwitz is something of a renaissance woman. An undergraduate student at Williams College, she is passionate about science, ensemble music, and equestrian sports. She also spent every summer from 2016–2018 at NCI at Frederick working on projects spanning immunity research, clinical medicine, and genetics.

“Working in three very different environments and learning new sets of skills each time has been something I am very proud of, and [it] will take me through the rest of my time as an undergraduate and beyond,” Hurwitz said.

During her first Cancer Research Training Award internship, Hurwitz worked with Joost Oppenheim, M.D., in the Cancer and Inflammation Program to study synthetic alarmins, man-made copies of molecules that activate a host’s immune system to attack invading cells. She performed western blots, a technique for detecting proteins, to evaluate whether the alarmins could trigger immune cells via certain protein signals.

The following summer, she learned how to draw blood, administer intramuscular injections, and handle administrative clinical tasks in the Occupational Health Services clinic under mentor Sarah Hooper. She also had a chance to apply her newfound knowledge by creating educational materials for patients and working with other interns to redesign the clinic’s exam rooms around new educational themes.

Hurwitz’s final internship was with Susan Mackem, M.D., Ph.D., in the Cancer and Developmental Biology Laboratory, where she studied how genetic mutations in the Shh/Fgf8 regulatory pathway affected bone structure, bone size, and number of digits in mice. She is particularly proud of mastering her part of the complex laboratory procedure used to conduct the analysis.

“Going into these internships, I wanted to explore my varied scientific interests as much as possible to build on my academic coursework and to narrow my potential career path,” Hurwitz said. “Plus, it was quite a bit of fun to work in the same general program, but to have completely different experiences each time!”

The internships afforded Hurwitz other opportunities, as well. She authored four articles for NCI at Frederick’s Poster newsletter, presented findings in summer student poster days at NCI at Frederick and NIH in Bethesda, helped spark children’s interest in science during Take Your Child to Work Day, and participated in the science journal club run by Walter Hubert, Ph.D.

Of the club, she said, “I really enjoyed the opportunity to delve more deeply into scientific literature and develop skills that were very useful in my science coursework.”

Although she wasn’t at NCI at Frederick this year, Hurwitz still used the summer to explore her scientific interests. She worked at the University of Maryland’s Fischell Department of Bioengineering through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program.

Hurwitz is currently studying biology and chemistry in preparation for attending medical school. She says she is also very proud to have recently obtained her Wilderness First Responder certification through an elective course. Outside of class, she tutors math and physics, plays the flute and piccolo in Williams College’s Berkshire Symphony, and competes on the college’s equestrian team.

After she graduates in 2021, Hurwitz hopes to begin her formal medical training and—farther in the future—become a practicing physician and medical school professor so she can combine her interests in medicine, teaching, and research. She hasn’t decided which discipline she wishes to pursue, but she is currently leaning toward neurology as well as obstetrics and gynecology.

“My three internships at NCI at Frederick have been critical in honing my career interests and goals,” she said. “I have been able to better determine the balance of clinical work and research that I think I may like in my future career, as well as develop skills that I will carry with me for all future endeavors.”