University of Nebraska Omaha
In 2007, Matthew Christenson entered Morningside College in Iowa on a football scholarship, but a torn ACL soon sent him to physical therapy where he discovered the world of biomedical science. After transferring to University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) where he briefly considered pre-med studies, a genetics class taught by inspirational mentor Mark Swanson, PhD captured his attention and convinced him that research was his calling.
In 2012, Christenson earned a degree in biotechnology and began two years of postbaccalaureate research at UNO in a human infectious disease lab of Paul Davis, PhD. Christenson worked first to develop compounds to block malaria-related parasites and then to define the transcriptome of a “sentinal organism,” the frog Rana pipiens, as a way of understanding how environmental contaminants influence amphibian biology, work funded by a grant from the Nebraska Academy of Sciences.
Once Christenson decided to pursue a PhD, experienced friends advised him to find: 1) a place he would love to be in, 2) mentors he could work with, and 3) an institute doing spectacular science. Based on those daunting criteria, only one place fit the bill and Christenson accepted an offer from the Stowers Institute, which he describes as “the complete package.”
Christenson has a newfound interest in stem cell versatility, fostered by his experience as a Stowers Summer Scholar in the laboratory of Investigator Linheng Li in 2011. Christenson’s efforts there resulted in co-authorship on a Naturepublication that describes mechanisms underlying maturation of adult blood stem cells. He is looking forward to more opportunities like that as a Stowers predoctoral researcher.