Matz Scholars: Investing in Excellence, Investing in the Future

If you’re looking to learn more about Bob Matz ‘62, you’re probably not going to find what you’re looking for here.  Bob would much rather spend his time talking about the student scholars in Northeastern’s Biotechnology Co-op Research Fellowship Program. Along with his wife Eileen, Bob has generously and proudly supported nearly 70 undergraduate students from the College of Science working for 6 months in world-class labs on campus and around Boston.

Bob is a graduate of Northeastern University’s College of Liberal Arts. At the time of his attendance, Northeastern was a long-celebrated engineering school, and he recalls that he and his fellow science students “were a much smaller group.” Bob, whose love of science is palpable, admits that as an undergrad, at some point, he felt a bit unfulfilled in the teaching lab. He likens the experience to reading a cookbook. “I was just mixing up the ingredients and making exactly what the person before me had made,” says Bob. “It just wasn’t interesting to me. I realized later in life how thrilling it would have been to have worked in a real world-class lab as a 2nd or 3rd year student.”

The fellowship co-op program aims to not only provide that educational thrill of working in a research facility, but also pairs the student with the mentorship of a faculty member – a relationship that extends beyond the classroom. And, the impressive group of young scientists who have benefited from Bob’s steadfast belief in experiential learning are the proof.  “These students are bright and articulate and ready to accomplish something great.,” says Bob. “They have all the capabilities.” And, accomplishing things is exactly what they are doing.

Graduates have gone on to impressive careers in medicine, research and industry.  “The Matz Scholarship was critical for my career as a researcher. The scholarship allowed me to gain extensive experience conducting research in an academic laboratory, including designing and running experiments, analyzing and sharing my results in lab meetings, and presenting a poster at an international conference, “ says Lauren Byrnes ’13 (Biology). “These experiences led to my decision to pursue a career in science research and to apply for a master’s, and later, a PhD program. I am very grateful for the opportunities granted to me through the Matz Scholarship.”

“As a Matz Scholar, I was empowered to conduct cutting-edge research with remarkably intelligent, diverse, and kind individuals who helped lay the foundation for my current career in science, “ says David Hill ’14. “Without the Matz Program, I would have not been able to reach my true potential as a scientist.” And, it’s that potential that compelled Bob to start the fund. He believes in the importance of students having the opportunity to use the Scientific Method to accomplish something of quality and usefulness and that in doing so, it will further fuel their enthusiasm and excitement for science.

Bob’s love for science and scientists runs pretty deep.  Initially, his engagement with Northeastern as an alum was minimal as he established his career and started a family.  But, he did keep in touch with Dr. Riser, an influential professor during his time at Northeastern, and his roommate Dr. Sol Katz, who completed his co-op under the tutelage of Don Comb, the founder of New England Biolabs and went on to be a science professor at University of Pennsylvania.  He enthusiastically describes them as “pure scientists” and has obvious great admiration for them. He also worked for many years alongside Barry Karger and Louis Barnett as a biotechnology consultant to Northeastern’s Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis and considers them good friends and brilliant scientific minds. He credits these relationships with inspiring him to establish the fellowship.  “The students learn valuable skills about working with a team – they work with post-docs, grad students, techs, faculty and other students,” says Bob.  “They learn how gratifying it is to be one part of something bigger than just you.”

This year, Bob has enhanced his commitment to giving to Northeastern with additional funding to support student co-ops at the Ocean Genome Lab (OGL). This is an endeavor near to his heart and a way of honoring his dear friend and dedicated scientist, New England Biolabs and OGL founder Don Comb, who passed away earlier this year. Bob encourages his fellow alums to find ways to support students in science because as he says, “It’s better than cement! I’d much rather see the sparkle on a young student’s face and feel the warmth of furthering their learning experience than see my name on a door.”

Congratulations to this year’s Biotechnology Co-op Research Fellowship honorees:

Fatemah Mukadum, ’22 (Chemistry)
“Searching for light-promoted cancer therapeutics with quantum chemistry and machine learning”
Research Advisor: Steven Lopez, PhD

Benjamin Rich, ’21 (Chemistry)
“Method Development for Copper II Chelation Ligand Testing”
Research Faculty Advisor: Rein Kirss, PhD

Hoang Yen Vu, ’21 (Biochemistry)
“Function prediction for host and symbiont proteins in a bivalve mollusk: Can these creatures guide us to biotech production of biofuels?”
Research Faculty Advisor: Mary Jo Ondrechen, PhD

Barnett Institute for Chemical & Biological Analysis
College of Science