Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Matthew. We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
I grew up as the second oldest of four boys in the west suburbs of Chicago. My father owned a martial arts studio, so I did that until high school where I fell in love with football. After high school, I bounced around a couple of colleges in the midwest before graduating from UIC. I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t like being on the bottom of the totem pole at work, so I got my Master’s from NIU. I fell in love with research when I was there and chose to get my Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. I met my wife while I was in Baltimore and we opened a business in healthcare there.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career, Matthew?
When I was very young, I wanted to be an architect; however, taking a CAD class in high school disabused me of that notion. I then planned on going pre-med, like many other high school students that are interested in human biology. Being diagnosed with Leukemia at 18 and having a bone marrow transplant at 19 really cemented my interest in oncology. It wasn’t until I was in a Master’s program that I knew that I wanted to get a Ph.D. Even those plans changed and now I’m an entrepreneur.
What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?
I am most proud of being accepted into a Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins. It took years of planning, persevering, and pivoting to accomplish. I struggled a lot during undergrad because I was still recovering from my cancer treatments. I was able to earn an exceptional GRE score when my health improved; however, I knew that my undergraduate GPA would prevent me from joining a highly regarded Ph.D. program. I was able to use NIU as a stepping stone to the first ranked immunology program in the US. Even though a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident prevented me from finishing my Ph.D., I’m still proud of the work I did to earn my spot.
What do you enjoy most about teaching/tutoring, Matthew?
I enjoy learning about things that interest me and seeking mastery in certain subjects. I like coaching students through problem-solving. I love the expression when it clicks and they can’t help but smile. I enjoy helping them set and reach their goals; however, I love when they learn to celebrate giving it their all. My favorite thing about tutoring is helping students gain the self-confidence to do their best, even when it’s hard.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy reading, mostly fiction. My favorite genres are fantasy and science fiction. Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere universe and Chris Kennedy’s Four Horsemen Universe are two series I’ve been reading recently. I also like to play video games with my family. My wife, my three brothers, and I play various online games together three nights a week. It’s a good way of keeping in touch since we don’t all live near each other anymore.
Tell about an amazing trip you took. Where did you go and what did you enjoy most?
I went to Cancun, Mexico for my 19th birthday and that was the most amazing trip I’ve taken. I remember having to get a passport, and it was my first time leaving the country. We stayed at a nice resort with lots of food, and access to the beach. My favorite part was visiting Chichen Itza, a Mayan temple in the form of a step pyramid. Being in that space I felt like I could experience a fraction of what had transpired on that land over a thousand years ago.
Is there something exciting you are working on now? What is it and why did you choose to start it?
I am working on getting into either coaching a collegiate League of Legends team or being an analyst for a professional League of Legends team. I’ve enjoyed watching professional games for a while, and I think that I have a fairly astute mind for analysis. There’s enough money in the scene to get paid decently, and there has been a long-standing need for better coaching/analysis for a significant time. Plus, Austin is set to have an Esports presence. I’m putting together my “LoL Coursework” and am excited to see where this goes.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? What is it and why did it resonate with you?
I loved the Cycle Trilogy by Ted Dekker. It is a sci-fi/fantasy/thriller that takes place in modern-day earth as well as a dream-world. The main character is transported between worlds when he sleeps and struggles to determine which is real and how they interact. On Earth, bioterrorists are set to release a virus, and in his dreams, a war is about to begin. The story is written by a Christian author and reads as an allegory similar to The Chronicles of Narnia. It resonated with me because it allowed me to view biblical stories from a completely new perspective, and it honestly surprised me. I would highly recommend it to Christian parents, but would also recommend it to agnostic or other faiths as well since it is not overtly religious.
The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Know yourself: know what motivates you, what makes you fulfilled, what your strengths and weaknesses are. Focus on self-improvement: your current abilities are just a starting point, you can train your brain just like you can train your body. Prioritize healthy habits and productive environments: physical, mental, and spiritual health are the engines that will drive your behavior.
Please share your favorite Life Lesson quote. How is it relevant to your life?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” -Aristotle (Will Durant). I like this quote because it encourages us to look beyond the satisfaction of achieving a goal and to focus on the essence of being excellent. When I coached football we spoke to the athletes about practicing like a championship team, hitting the weights like a championship team, and even losing like a championship team. By the time we reached the championship game, we were telling them they were a championship team, and it’s time to prove it and claim their prize.
I’ve taken that philosophy in life and it has allowed me to learn how to build habits and learn techniques that translate into whatever situation I find myself in. I learned in undergraduate that flashcards are the best way for me to study, and I leaned heavily on that knowledge to be successful in grad school. After spending 80 hours studying for the GRE I felt like I was fully prepared, that was the same time I spent studying for my oral exams. My commitment to excellence in the first situations provided a blueprint for excellence in the latter.