Martin Schwartz earned a BA in chemistry from New College (Sarasota, FL) in 1975 and finished a PhD in physical chemistry in 1979 at Stanford with Harden McConnell, where he worked on model phospholipid membranes. He then did postdoctoral work at MIT with Richard Hynes, where he became interested in how extracellular matrix proteins regulate cell behaviour. In 1983 he joined the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Harvard Medical school as an assistant professor, where he worked on photochemical crosslinking methods and actin-membrane interactions. His lab also began investigating effects of cell adhesion on the signalling pathways that regulate cell growth. In 1990 he was promoted to associate professor and in 1991 he moved to the Department of Vascular Biology at Scripps Research Institute, where his lab worked exclusively on integrin signalling. His lab found that integrins regulate Rho family GTPases during this period, which has remained a major interest. In the late 1990s he also began working on the role of integrins in the endothelial cell response to fluid shear stress, which has also become a major focus. He was promoted to professor in 2000 and moved to the University of Virginia in 2002, where he joined the Cardiovascular Research Center, Mellon Prostate Cancer Institute and the Departments of Microbiology and Biomedical Engineering.