The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation announced today that Maxwell Wang is one of the recipients of the 2020 Hertz Fellowship.
Wang, a M.D./Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, is one of 16 researchers to receive the prestigious award, chosen from more than 800 applicants from 24 universities across the nation. Hertz Fellows receive up to five years of research funding, giving them the freedom to pursue innovative ideas.
At CMU, Wang is studying machine learning and neuroscience, working with mentors Avniel Ghuman, Max G’Sell and Rob Kass. He is conducting research to understand how brain networks change during neuro-interventions, such as deep brain stimulation, and to link these changes to endpoints such as symptom improvement and adverse side-effect profiles. He plans to use the Hertz funding to further explore how brain functioning is assessed.
Once he completes another machine learning course, Wang will apply to enter the joint Ph.D. program in neural computation and machine learning, which is offered jointly by the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and the Machine Learning Department.
Wang began his career as an electrical engineer, earning a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis. He said that taking a cross-disciplinary approach to research makes for better and more interesting science.
"One of the biggest advantages of this community is that people come from so many different backgrounds. You have scientists, engineers, clinicians, data scientists — the brain is where all of these fields come together, and where we can make something truly amazing happen," Wang said.
Richard Steinman, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, helped Wang with his application for the Hertz Fellowship.
"Maxwell has an uncanny ability to absorb material and suggest next steps in an experimental, design or analytical process," Steinman said. "He is ferocious about learning and doing good," he said.
More than 50 CMU students and faculty have earned Hertz Fellowships over the years. Stephanie Wallach and Richelle Bernazzoli of CMU’s Fellowships and Scholarships Office helped Wang prepare for the extensive interview process.
The Hertz Fellowship also provides lifelong mentoring and networking support for fellows, connecting them to a community of more than 1,200 leaders in science and technology. Wang said he has already benefited from the guidance of mentors.
"I am very thankful to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. They both helped me tremendously. Ever since I came to Pittsburgh I’ve been thinking about the kinds of problems I want to tackle. What I want to accomplish in my life has completely changed since coming here, and I’m incredibly grateful for the guidance I’ve received," he said.
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