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Max Levine

Life Science Research Professional
Chemical Engineering
Story originally published on May 2022
I began college as a modern language and literature major at Cal Poly, but after taking a few biology courses, I fell in love with it.

It was the most excitement I’d ever experienced in academia. After finishing my master’s, I was able to connect with Jim Swartz here at Stanford, who’s a leader in my field of cell-free systems. It’s been like a dream come true doing research here and learning from the best.

Today I have a series of projects that I’m in charge of or collaborate on in the Swartz Laboratory. One involves trying to find new ways to treat prostate cancer using protein-based nanoparticles, which we make from scratch in our lab. The goal is to attach certain proteins on the outside of the particle to enable it to avoid our immune system. The particle carries a payload – you can think of it as a bomb – to destroy prostate tumor cells. We’re also collaborating with the National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to use this same cell-free protein synthesis platform to create a broad-spectrum antiviral that could target viruses including HPV and COVID-19 variants. My job also includes coordinating researchers from various bioengineering and chemical engineering labs who want to come in and use this laboratory space, organizing lab safety training for all of them, and teaching them to use our equipment. It’s a lot of work, but we get it done.

I was shocked to win the citizenship award, but it’s great, and I’d like to dedicate it to my dad, who passed away recently. I’ve never had to try to be a good citizen, because it was something I was raised to be by my parents. My dad was a model citizen. He owned a clothing store for 45 years in the historic downtown Willow Glen area of San Jose, and was known for his compassion to those around him, constantly making his business not just a place for people to buy clothing, but as a spot for community members to relax and enjoy themselves. He worked for the collective good of his downtown area, assisting with local events, helping others maintain their storefronts, and even directing traffic when the streetlights went out. He wasn’t just a family man, he was a community man.

My dad instilled in me how important it was to treat people the way I’d like to be treated, so I try to do that by helping co-workers with experiments when they’re overwhelmed, working with them to brainstorm new ways to run their experiments, or providing them with another set of eyes to analyze their data. I’m happy to do it, because I love the people I work with and we’re like family.

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