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David Matus, PhD - Assistant Professor

Dave grew up in Easton, PA and did an undergraduate biology degree at Wesleyan University. At Wesleyan, he spent more time playing in ska and soul bands, as he balanced classes with a love of performing. After college, Dave moved to Hawaii to fulfill a life-long passion to work with marine mammals. Specifically, Dave did an internship at the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory, where he worked with Drs. Louis Herman and Adam Pack, studying dolphin cognition. Like most people who move to Hawaii, Dave didn’t want to leave tropical paradise! He applied to the University of Hawaii and did a master’s and PhD in the Zoology Department studying evolution and development (evo-devo), in Mark Q. Martindale’s lab at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory in Honolulu. During graduate school, Dave was a student in the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory Embryology Course (#Embryo2002). It was in this intense, but amazing summer course, that Dave discovered his love of live cell imaging and fluorescence microscopy, a passion he’s interwoven into his science ever since. Dave has been affiliated with the Embryology Course since 2002, as a student, teaching assistant, and now course instructor.

Hawaii was also where Dave met the other love of his life besides science – Deirdre Killebrew, a then graduate student studying HIV. They married in 2005, and in 2007 welcomed their daughter, Maile, into the world! At 6 weeks old, Maile, their two cats, Dave and Deirdre bid a sleep-deprived adieu to island life, and moved to the Research Triangle, where Dave started a postdoc in the lab of David Sherwood, in the Biology Department at Duke University. There, as a Damon Runyon Fellow, Dave did a genetic screen to identify new regulators of cell invasion – a process that is important during embryonic development but is dysregulated during cancer metastasis. During his postdoc, they welcomed the birth of their second daughter, Bria, in 2009.

In 2014, Dave started his faculty position in our department, funded by an NIH National Cancer Institute Pathway to Independence award. Here at Stony Brook, Dave’s lab has continued to expand upon his work as a postdoc, examining the interplay between cell proliferation and cell invasion, using C. elegans as a model system paired with CRISPR/Cas9-genome engineering, genetics, and live-cell imaging approaches. Dave and his group are also interested in trying to understand how cell cycle state impinges upon cell behavior, in C. elegans, but also in many other organisms and during cancer progression. They have a long-standing collaboration, funded by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, with Ben Martin (pictured above on the bike!), examining the role of cell cycle arrest and invasive behavior in worms, zebrafish and cancer cells. You can find more about their lab’s research here.

Dave has continued his love of jazz performance, with a monthly gig at Stony Brook’s only jazz club, The Jazz Loft, where he plays in the sax section. On any given day you can usually find him either in the lab at the microscope, playing music, home cooking in the kitchen, or cheering his girls on in their many activities!