M. Jeremiah Matson

M. Jeremiah Matson is an MD-PhD student at Marshall University in his home state of West Virginia. Upon completing his second year of medical school, he began undertaking his dissertation research through the NIH’s Graduate Partnership Program at the NIH/NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, MT, as a member of the Virus Ecology Unit under the mentorship of Dr. Vincent Munster. Their lab is focused on identifying the underlying factors of virus-host ecology that drive cross-species transmission events and the emergence of novel viral pathogens into humans. A unique blend of experimental research in high- and maximum-containment (BSL-3 and BSL-4, respectively) is utilized alongside a robust field program to study high-consequence pathogens in as holistic a manner as possible. Jeremiah hopes to continue researching viruses and other infectious diseases as he pursues an academic residency and fellowship training in the future. Prior to matriculating at Marshall, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Cedarville University in Ohio and a Bachelor of Theology from Moore College in Sydney, Australia. While in Sydney, Jeremiah also taught high school science, was a Visiting Researcher at the University of Sydney, and met and married his wife, Sarah. When he’s not in the lab, Jeremiah enjoys exploring the mountains of West Virginia and Montana with his family.
 


Project: "Arboviruses in the Republic of the Congo: Host Ecology and Epidemiology"     
November 1, 2017 - December 8, 2017
Tanzania


 


What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I am very honored, encouraged and thankful to receive the Kean Fellowship, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity that it will open up for me. As a student, it’s far too easy to compartmentalize training and career, and thus miss out on all sorts of opportunities for growth because of an instinctual adherence to this false dichotomy. The Kean Fellowship, and other similar programs, helps break these barriers. It’s a wonderful way to recognize a student’s work early in their training/career, encourage their clinical and research interests, and facilitate steps towards independence.

What do you anticipate learning?
From a scientific standpoint, the Kean Fellowship will provide the opportunity for me to undertake an arbovirus research project in the Republic of the Congo. While my primary research focus for my dissertation is Ebola virus and our lab already has an established field site for Ebola research in this area, as an aspiring infectious disease clinician-investigator I hope to also gain early experience working with other pathogens (and ones that are a bit more common!). We’re planning to conduct serological surveys of the human population for chikungunya, Zika, yellow fever and dengue, and also trap and test mosquitoes that can transmit these diseases. This will help give a better spatio-temporal picture of these viruses in their host and vector and possibly reveal new mosquito species involved in the transmission of these viruses in local settings.

From a more general standpoint, I hope to gain some understanding of the complex process of designing and implementing a field study and continue to develop the tacit skills that a clinician-investigator must have. It is, though, sometimes hard to predict how the most meaningful aspects of learning will unfold, so I’ll keep as open a mind as possible towards those that will teach me and, hopefully, learn quite a few unexpected things, too.

What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
There's a burgeoning need for comprehensive tropical medicine initiatives, from basic and clinical research to epidemiological studies and public health programs. Indeed, the WHO doesn't call the diseases that afflict these regions neglected tropical diseases for no reason; they are endemic to developing and poverty-stricken areas and go largely overlooked. Tropical medicine offers a unique opportunity to simultaneously provide a clinical helping hand of immediate utility with research efforts that can hopefully turn the tide against these diseases in the long run.