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Biological SciencesOur alumni

Matt Hutchings PhD

Research Fellow, University of East Anglia

Matt Hutchings's Photo

Biology has always been important for Dr Matt Hutchings: “Thanks to my excellent teachers, I became very interested in the subject back at school in Epsom, and I’ve studied it ever since,” he says. After many years of academic research, he now heads his own laboratory at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The totally different thing about studying for a PhD is that you get to spend your whole time in the lab. You have your research question to explore but, of course, the more experiments you do, the more questions you have. Research is fascinating and, perhaps, never-ending.

Genetics and molecular biology became his passion at A-level as Matt and his fellow sixth formers learned more about the pioneering experiments that discovered the existence of DNA. “I was the first in my family to go to university and loved it right from the start.”

At undergraduate level, he became interested in the role played by bacteria in disease. He explains: “Bacteria are vitally important to human beings. They are everywhere, they keep us alive. Most are useful as they regulate our bodies efficiently but others are a threat. There is so much we don’t know about bacteria, we still don’t fully understand how they divide, so much research still needs to be done.”

After graduating from Portsmouth, he moved along the coast for his PhD. “I went to an open day at Boldrewood and was very impressed. I didn’t know much about doctorates but I knew Southampton had a good reputation. I made a good decision to go there.” He investigated gene regulation in the common E. coli bacteria which can cause serious food poisoning: “The totally different thing about studying for a PhD is that you get to spend your whole time in the lab. You have your research question to explore but, of course, the more experiments you do, the more questions you have. Research is fascinating and, perhaps, never-ending.”

Matt was fortunate enough to receive funding throughout his PhD. Over the years, Matt kept his enthusiasm in the subject. “I know some people become a little jaded while completing their doctorate, but I loved it throughout. “ After his PhD, he went to the University of East Anglia for three years of postdoctoral research, then moved to the nearby John Innes Centre research institute for another four years. His research
subjects involved the effects of nitric oxide on bacteria and the use of bacteria in producing antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs.

He is now a Research Fellow funded by Research Councils UK (RCUK) and heads a team of seven at UEA exploring how bacteria sense and respond to their environment. Matt also teaches third year undergraduates and Masters students about bacteria and uses popular Internet resources such as Facebook and podcasts to increase public understanding of biological science: “University research is never boring, there’s always something new to research and there’s always the possibility that a big discovery is around the corner and you’ll find something useful for humanity."

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