What Great Minds Can Do: Matthew Pennington
"My friends at other colleges haven't been able to get into the research labs as early as I have. They have to wait until junior or senior year, but I got into the labs my freshman year. I started working with Dr. Blake on Neuroblastoma Research and, by sophomore year, I was conducting my own research project. My experience gave me an edge to get into a very competitive internship program at one of the largest research institutes in the Midwest, which was drawing people from all over the world."
Matt chose Seton Hall so he could benefit from the small classes and personal attention, "When I was looking at colleges, I learned that some of the larger introductory classes (at other schools) would be taught by teaching assistants and other graduate students," he said. I did not like this idea—I wanted to be taught by someone who knew the material, not someone who was still learning it." Plus Matt knew that at a smaller school he'd be able to get more involved in research and have easier access to faculty and labs. As a sophomore, Pennington was given his own research project, looking to see if the anti-cancer drug Flavopiridol could inhibit the Kaposi's sarcoma associated herpes virus. "It allowed me to see a variety of techniques, many of which I use in my current research."
As a junior, Pennington began to work with Dr. Allan Blake studying somatostatin, a hormone that regulates cell growth, among other things. "We are looking to see if any of the five different somatostatin receptors are expressed at higher levels in the cancer stem cell than in other tumors cells. If it is, it may be an indication that there is some sort of connection between somatostatin and cell growth." If the team can prove this, they will try to figure out the mechanism of action, and then possibly inhibit the mechanism, thus slowing, stopping or even reversing tumor growth.
Matt will expand his passion for research this summer as he travels to South Africa to the Pongola Game Reserve with the research organization Operation Wallacea. The organization focuses on ecology and conservation in about 10 different countries around the world. Pennington will focus his research and Honors Program senior thesis on the overpopulation of elephants in South Africa.
Hands-on research with a faculty member and study abroad are just two of the things that brought learning to life for Matt, so did his summer-long internship with one of the largest research institutes in the Midwest. Matt also found challenge by the Honors program. "Being in the Honors Program has shown me how to approach a problem and look at it from different angels. This helped me problem solve when I ran into problems with my scientific experiments. And it helped me see connections and parallels I wouldn't have expected like when I realized how Descartes' philosophy applied to quantum mechanics."
Seton Hall Career Highlights
- Study and Research Abroad in South Africa
- Department of Biology Research Assistant
- Resident Assistant
- Seton Hall Honors Program
- Summer Internship with Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, MO.
- Student Support Services Tutor
- Seton Hall Pep Band
- Dean's List
- Regent's Scholarship Recipient
- Saint Luke's Health Care System Retirement Benefits Award Recipient
- Saint Luke's Health Care System Hospital Foundation Award Recipient