Swartz Group: Melody Swartz

William B. Ogden Professor

Swartz Group


  • Phone
  • Address

    Eckhardt Research Center
    Room 379
    5640 South Ellis Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60637

  • Email
  • Assistant
    Alicia Bearden-Mannie


Swartz's research focuses on how lymphatic vessels, and their transport functions, contribute to adaptive immunity. Biomedical scientists currently regard the fluid-drainage function of the lymphatic system as mostly important for maintaining tissue fluid balance. The cell transport functions, which regulate immunity, are considered separately.

She is trying to build a new picture of the lymphatic function—namely, that not only are fluid and cell transport functions of the lymphatic vessels strongly coupled, but that the fluid transport functions are very important in regulating immune responses.

Swartz’s team also is trying to target lymphatic vessels for improved cancer immunotherapy because this is one aspect of the tumor microenvironment that seems to contribute to therapeutic failure.


Swartz earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1991. As a Watson Foundation Fellow she then conducted a year of independent research in Micronesia on the “use and societal impact of Western technologies in undeveloped nations.”

Swartz next joined the anesthesiology department at the Northwestern University School of Medicine as a research assistant. She completed her PhD in chemical engineering in 1998 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, serving next as a postdoctoral fellow in the Pulmonary Division of Brigham & Women’s Hospital of the Harvard Medical School and of MIT’s department of mechanical engineering.

She later held joint faculty appointments in chemical & biological engineering and biomedical engineering at Northwestern. She joined the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lusanne (EPFL) faculty in 2003 while maintaining her Northwestern ties first as an adjunct assistant professor, then as a visiting scientist, in biomedical engineering.

Swartz has received many honors. In addition to the MacArthur Fellowship, which recognizes creativity in all endeavors, she has been awarded a Career Award from the National Science Foundation, an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator Award, and the Wenner Prize—Switzerland’s largest prize for cancer research.

Additional honors include being named one of Popular Science Magazine’s Brilliant 10 in 2006. Swartz also is an elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and a two-time recipient of prestigious $3 million single-investigator grants from the European Research Foundation.

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