Science and business: Maeve Murdock’s many endeavors

Author: John LeSage

Maeve Murdock

Maeve Murdock, a senior biological sciences major from Chicago, has involved herself in activities all throughout the College of Science over the past four years.

Her interests have ranged from research to business to student outreach. No matter what she’s doing, though, she described how she simply wants to help people in some way.

“When I leave Notre Dame, I want to feel like I’ve had an impact,” said Murdock, who is concentrating in biomedical sciences and also has minors in science, technology, and values as well as innovation and entrepreneurship. “The beautiful thing about Notre Dame is that everybody just wants to help each other; I think I’ve embodied that to a really high degree and hope to keep doing that in my years outside of undergrad.”

Her interest in science research was sparked early on during her time at Notre Dame.

“I was inspired by (Teaching Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences Michelle A. Whaley’s) genetics lab during fall of sophomore year,” she said. “And I realized I really have a passion for getting in the lab and trying to apply concepts I’ve learned in the lecture, as well as things I’ve read about in scientific papers — getting to explore that on my own, and trying to figure out the mechanisms of interesting scientific paradigms that we don’t quite understand yet.

“I’ve also been really interested in CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing, since high school, so I’ve always wanted to get into the lab and work with that,” she continued.

And, fortuitously, Notre Dame gave her the perfect opportunity to do so. Murdock described how beginning in the spring of her sophomore year, she began to work in the lab of David Hyde, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, investigating retinal regeneration in zebrafish. Zebrafish can regain their eyesight after they have been blinded, and the Hyde lab is attempting to figure out how. Hyde, also the Kenna Director of the Zebrafish Research Center, has identified several genes that could be harnessed to treat or even cure human blindness, and Murdock herself worked to study the role of two genes called HER9 and HER12 that are both involved in the eyesight regeneration process.

In order to understand the gene functions, she and others began a large project of combining an inducible TET-ON system — a molecular signaling pathway that can be activated by various drugs — and a CRISPR knockout system — which deactivates the genes it targets.

She also carried her research abroad to University College Dublin, working in the lab of Breandán Kennedy, professor in the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. There, Murdock further investigated human blindness, studying how variations in a gene called RAB28 could lead to retinal degeneration.

She’s also taken her research skills into the fields of business and public outreach.

“I work in the IDEA Center as a technical market analyst in the life sciences division,” she said. “A lot of professors on campus now are working to commercialize their technology … it’s amazing when you can find these discoveries, but it’s even more amazing and impactful when you can translate that to the clinic and make it available to patients suffering from these diseases.”

Murdock herself works on the initial stages of this analysis, examining professors’ research and asking questions about how it can be applied to the current biomedical market. For example: Is there a market for this technology? Can it be effectively scaled? Is there a good benefit vs. cost? It may be a difficult task, but she described how her skills from carrying out research translated over well.

“It takes the science and technology acumen, as well as being able to apply business principles like return on investment,” she said. She also described that critical thinking and clear communication skills are necessary as well.

“Imagine presenting to 20 other people who have never heard of your topic,” she said.

Meanwhile, all these skills that tie together business and research melded together for Murdock’s ultimate passion project, the Biotech Club of Notre Dame, which she started with senior Jackson Meyer. The Biotech Club is multidisciplinary, stitching together educational, networking, and entrepreneurship efforts. Students participating in the club can find different jobs and internships in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, propose business ideas, and meet like-minded students from a variety of backgrounds. For her leadership efforts, she was named Officer of the Year by Notre Dame’s Club Coordination Council, out of all the 328 active clubs on campus.

“We have students from the Mendoza College of Business, the College of Arts and Letters, the College of Engineering, and of course the College of Science,” said Murdock. “We promote that internal Notre Dame network, as well as networking between students and alumni. It opens doors to internships and jobs, as well as the opportunity to learn from people who have already been through it and can offer so much valuable wisdom and experience.”

Murdock said she hopes that each of the students she interacts with will take that wisdom and experience, carrying it out into the world.

“ND students are very mission and impact driven, and so it’s really exciting to see a young generation of students who are so smart, so driven, and really wanting to make a difference in the world.”

She plans to make her own impact on the healthcare industry after graduation, working for Tempus — an AI tech player in the healthcare industry — doing strategy and operations for their clinical studies team.