They’re our modern-day superheroes — charging into burning buildings without hesitation, rescuing those in peril, staving off destruction. But in risking their lives for us, firefighters pay a heavy price, with cancer rates that far outpace the public at large.
Derek Urwin, a longtime firefighter who expects to complete his Ph.D. in chemistry during the winter quarter, is out to change that, using his knowledge of chemistry to improve firefighter health and safety and, ultimately, bring these cancer rates down. It’s a mission that had a very personal origin.
In 2014, Urwin’s brother Isaac, then 33, died of leukemia. Urwin, who was serving with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, took time off to care for him through his chemotherapy treatments.