Alumnus Returns As Professor; Excels In Neuroscience Research
In January 2012, Jessica Matchynski walked into a familiar classroom in the Richardson Center, carrying everything she needed for class. The setting was all too familiar, yet it wasn’t quite déjà vu for the soft-spoken scholar. Perhaps that was because Matchynski didn’t take a seat preparing to listen to a lecture. Instead, she stood behind the podium and began teaching her first psychology course at RC. Oh, yes—her title was now Dr. Jessica Matchynski, assistant professor of psychology, as well.
Matchynski graduated from RC with a Bachelor of Science in psychology in 2006, before going on to complete a master’s and Ph.D. in neuroscience from Central Michigan University. During her graduate studies, Matchynski’s primary focus was leading three projects on rodent models and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. She also had the opportunity to assist with projects on Huntington’s disease and aging. As a faculty member at RC, Matchynski will head collaboration between RC and Henry Ford Hospital. She also continues to conduct research in the post-doctorate program at Wayne State University and consult on neuroscience at Henry Ford Hospital.
“After watching my grandmother suffer from dementia, I decided it would be more beneficial if I devoted my career to the prevention and alleviation of dementias, rather than clinical psychology,” she said. This change meant she needed to obtain the necessary pre-requisites for neuroscience programs. “RC’s focus on the individual student and the small class sizes were very helpful. I ended up being able to graduate a semester early because of these qualities and the teaching methods of the science faculty,” she said.
Not only was she able to graduate early, Matchynski credits her time at RC to success in the master’s and doctorate degrees she pursued. It was just a short time ago that her now colleagues were the ones encouraging her to move forward with her research and ambitions.
“In Dr. Siegel-Hinson’s class, rather than tell me that I might be biting off more than I can chew, she encouraged me to conduct a full study on memory using mice for a course project—the fact that I had done the study on my own was one of the major points brought up in my interview at CMU,” said Matchynski. “Almost every science and psychology course had both a presentation and a paper. I am not a natural presenter—that was learned through practice at RC. I went from getting hives at the thought of speaking in front of a small group to speaking in front of hundreds at a major conference.“
Not only did Matchynski gain from the psychology program at RC, the program gained from her time as a student. With the help of Dr. Gordon MacKinnon, chair of the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Matchynski tuned her leadership skills by starting RC’s chapter of Psi Chi, the national psychological honors society. She served as the first president and arranged events on campus such as “The Shrink Is In.”
Matchynski is thrilled to be part of a faculty that had such a great influence on her. As she settles into her professor position, she reflects on the greatest lesson RC provided her—one she hopes to share with her students.
“My time at RC allowed me to define myself as both a Christian and a scientist,” she said. “The combination is often thought taboo, but the professors of RC demonstrated this combination as living examples. Learning about the scientific workings of the world allows one to appreciate the beauty and design in its infinite complexity.”