Who is that masked man? Chemistry’s new Assistant Professor Matt Soellner is joined by first-year student Nicole Rivera Fuentes, a rotator in his lab. In previous years, Soellner has been known to undergraduate students through work with Professor John Wolfe on an authentic research experience course in medicinal chemistry.
Although he is no stranger to the University of Michigan, Matthew Soellner is a welcome addition to the chemistry faculty, bringing his expertise in research on protein kinases in breast cancer to his role as Roush Assistant Professor.
“I’ve been at Michigan a while now and I am thrilled to join the chemistry department. I am especially excited at the prospect of having chemistry graduate students in my lab,” Soellner says. Before joining LSA, Soellner spent nine years at the College of Pharmacy and three years in the Medical School’s Department of Internal Medicine.
“I really enjoy training graduate students,” Soellner says. “They bring a level of energy and excitement to a research lab. One of the most important products for any academic lab is teaching students to correctly think about and do science. Graduate student trainees make a large and positive impact on society.”
Soellner discovered a love of research early on. Soellner originally was interested in becoming a doctor but realized after working in a rehabilitation facility that he was more interested in laboratory work. He was able to find the best of both worlds when he chose to focus on cancer research, specifically protein kinases.
“Many kinases have well-established roles in cancer,” Soellner explains. “We are interested in the type of breast cancer for which there is no current therapy: triple-negative breast cancer, which is defined by what it doesn’t have.”
Breast cancer affects nearly 250,000 women in the United States each year. Triple-negative breast cancer is most likely to be metastatic and cannot properly regulate estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones directly responsible for tumor growth.
Soellner believes that his research is applicable not only to providing new pathways in cancer treatments but also to acting as an antidote to the current attitude towards science in general.
“One of the most unfortunate things that has happened in the last five to ten years is the politicization of science,” Soellner states. “Science is based on facts and should therefore be apolitical. We find ourselves living in a post-truth world. This makes our job as scientists and educators even more important: that we focus on the facts and we make sure what we are doing has a clear and profound impact on society."
"I think the best way to depoliticize science is for science to continue to provide consumer advances, whether new medicines or new green plastics. If you look with an objective eye, it is irrefutable that science has made a dramatic and positive impact on all human lives.”