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Matthew J

- Research Program Mentor

MA/PHD candidate at Columbia University


Molecular Biology, Genetics, Genomic Instability, Biochemistry


Hello! I am currently a fourth year PhD candidate in Columbia University’s Biological Sciences program. As an undergraduate at Tufts University I majored in Biochemistry and studied genomic instability while completing my senior thesis in Catherine Freudenreich's lab. My experience studying genes involved in safeguarding the integrity of our genome has inspired me to continue in this field of research now that I am at Columbia working in Lorraine Symington's lab. This research has broad applicability to the study of genetic disease including cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. Beyond work in the lab, I also had the opportunity to study Mandarin Chinese as an undergraduate which culminated with a semester abroad studying in Beijing. I also played the violin for several years and have enjoyed playing in school and community orchestras. Outside of my academic life I enjoy hiking, biking, and generally enjoying the great outdoors.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Protecting Our Genome

Every time our cells undergo mitosis they must completely duplicate their DNA in an error free fashion to avoid the accumulation of harmful mutations. In this project, a student will complete a literature review to determine important factors in the maintenance of genome stability. Examples include genes involved in numerous DNA repair pathways. The project will also focus on understanding how genetic diseases can arise in individuals with faulty DNA repair genes. Finally, the student will discuss the therapeutic future of genetic diseases (such as gene editing).

Mutations: Friend or Foe?

Mutations tend to get a bad rap. From their ability to cause cancer, to their tendency to make viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 more virulent, it’s safe to say that mutations aren’t always great. But are all mutations harmful? In this project, a student will explore the evolutionary importance mutations and study mutations that can be beneficial to humans. A classic example of a beneficial mutation is seen in carriers of Sickle Cell disease who also have malaria resistance.

Teaching experience

As an undergraduate at Tufts, I was a lab teaching assistant for a chemistry course for three semesters. I led a group of 10-12 students in weekly experiments, answered questions, and graded assignments. I loved the hands-on one on one relationships I got to build with my students. During my second year in the PhD program at Columbia University, I was an in class teaching assistant for a biochemistry class and a genetics class. I assisted in making and grading exams, and help office hours and recitations for students to ask me questions directly. I definitely found holding office hours to be the most rewarding part of this work. At Polygence, I have now mentored several students, and am looking forward to meeting many more curious and enthusiastic young researchers!



Tufts University
BS Bachelor of Science (2020)
Columbia University
MA/PHD Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Biological Sciences

Completed Projects

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