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Staff Profile: Madison Hartstein, Team Science Project Manager

Madison Hartstein is a lifelong learner and explorer, two activities she’s made a big part of her role as a senior project manager in the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute’s Team Science Program.

“Part of what makes this job so cool is that I am also learning the ropes at Northwestern,” she says. “I am learning about the various entities and always actively soliciting knowledge.”

When asked about her path to Northwestern, Madison Hartstein can’t help but laugh.

 

There is a lot of work with different people across multiple disciplines. It’s through the collaboration of people from different specialties that we can solve big and complex problems; that’s the beauty of Team Science.”

Madison Hartstein, pictured on her first day at Northwestern

“Well, it was quite a journey, a pretty random pathway that got me here, I suppose.”

Hartstein’s background was in events and film marketing, and she started working in LA and then, she says, “I wanted a change of pace.” So she moved to Nashville and worked in marketing and healthcare education for Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy.

It was at Vanderbilt that she realized that, in the healthcare system, “communications are a big part of things, especially professional communications, and that was my introduction to how hospital systems work, how healthcare works, and how marketing and communications work in healthcare; it’s a very different world.”

Hartstein still has a special place in her heart for film marketing but says that her feelings for healthcare communications is a “different type of love.”

At Vanderbilt, she was exposed to working with international partners, which sparked some realizations. 

“I found that a lot of the experiences that people described are shared. Someone may tell about a difficult story that feels personal and unique and then everyone else in the room is nodding in complete assent. At the end of the day, people are people, and we are all connected. Those interactions really stoked my passion for humans and relationships.”

From there, Hartstein found her way to research and an opportunity to work in cancer survivorship. 

“That was my first foray into traditional research, and it was really amazing,” she says. “It exposed me to so many details, and I got to work with some extremely generous patients. I learned about the structure of the research, how to set up studies, and research in general.” 

It turned out that Vanderbilt and now Northwestern were perfect progressions for her professional career. 

Hartstein’s work in Team Science at NUCATS is diverse and ever changing. She jokes that it’s “kind of an enigma” because people are still learning the multitude of ways Team Science can be leveraged. 

“Right now, there is a lot of work with different people across multiple disciplines. It’s through the collaboration of people from different specialties that we can solve big and complex problems; that’s the beauty of Team Science.” 

When brining a behavioral scientist and a computer scientist together, for example, would likely result in them favoring different. But, she says, these differences can lead to highly effective outcomes.

“A computer scientist typically starts with a data source, mines the data to come up with a hypothesis or model, and then produces the finding, whereas a behavioral scientist starts with a hypothesis or theory, gathers data, and then analyzes the data to produce the finding. They seem diametrically opposed, but really, we can create a new shared goal and find a process that works for both. Team Science builds bridges between different styles, approaches, and expertise.” 

 

There are many tools used to help tie diverse disciplines together, and a big part of the work is simply educating people about how they might use available techniques.

“We have made modules you can find at teamscience.net. They are designed for researchers to learn — plus we’re in the middle of creating community focused modules as well.” 

At NUCATS, Hartstein is happy to be part of a collaborative team that works on so many different and important projects.

“I’m so grateful to get to work with brilliant, passionate people. I really value my team; everyone is open to creativity and it’s special to have people dreaming big,” she says. “NUCATS has so much to offer and so many resources available. There is a lot that exists that people don’t even know about.” 

Hartstein and her team are currently working to co-develop a toolkit designed for community stakeholders and community-based organizations, to support them feeling informed and empowered when participating in research partnerships. It is very important to Hartstein to build these bridges between the community and academic research, and she notes that Team Science lends itself well.

“We are truly co-developing all our work. Our community board members provide a different lens, which we combine with our academic way of doing things to co-create.”

It can be a very complex process, but Hartstein says that the results are rewarding.

“It’s highly collaborative, so there are many different checkpoints. I don’t represent the community in this partnership, so I rely on their expertise and experience. We create content in sub-committees made up of the Community Advisory Board (CAB) members. Then our Northwestern team creates a tool based on that content which we bring back to the sub-committee for approval and additional ideation when needed. Next, we bring the tool to the full CAB for everyone to weigh in, all the while getting input from experienced Northwestern researchers, NUCATS leadership, and the technology and tool creation team, and we conduct focus groups and usability testing. We’re hoping this collaborative approach will make the tools effective, usable, and engaging for everyone.”

When Hartstein isn’t in the office, she loves to travel … and she even has one strong recommendation.

“Arizona has the best sunsets you will ever see in your life, I highly recommend them, but don’t go in the summer, definitely the winter.”

Because she grew up in Arizona, Hartstein says, “I’m from the desert and I love to be outside.” She also loves spending time with friends, listening to music, watching films, and exploring the city.

“I’m really excited about the Chicago food scene, so if anyone has a recommendation on vegetarian food, I’m interested.”

That willingness to listen and learn is at the heart of Hartstein’s life.

“My real job,” she smiles, “is to constantly be learning.”

Written by Rosemary Sissel

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