Guest Ph.D talks MESA


Cathie Lawrence

Dr. Matthew Bertin talks about his marine biochemistry work to students and faculty.

Matthew Bertin, Ph.D., spoke to LMC’s Mathematics Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program last Friday in SC-202. Faculty showed up as well as students from Diablo Valley College.

After a brief introduction by longtime friend and fellow graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina, MESA Director Nicole Trager, Bertin started by talking about his early experience in studying coral reefs in Florida. With the help of an elaborate PowerPoint presentation, he transitioned into talking about threats to coral reefs.

While Bertin explained that overfishing and disease contribute to the death rate, he also noted “it’s hard to find specific stressors that cause coral death.”

He doesn’t just focus on coral reefs. This issue impacts the economy as well, costing the U.S. up to 82 million dollars a year. He researches diseases affecting all aquatic life to help find anti-cancer agents and possible cures for other diseases in humans.

“Most people think of marine biology as tracking dolphins through the ocean, but there is so much out there,” said Trager adding that she considers Bertin to be at “a unique intersection of science where marine biology, chemistry and human health meet.”

Following the speech, over a dozen students had questions to ask the guest speaker. When asked about advice he could give to people wanting to work in the same field, Bertin recommended that students be prepared to write papers because that’s how you get funding for projects. He also said students should be willing to work with new technology. If you get a grant or fellowship, you have to fill out progress reports.

Another student, inquired about what working in his field is like. “It’s as fun as a job can be,” replied Bertin. He also said that though most of the time, he’s working in the lab, he also gets to spend some days in the ocean for a few days out of the year.

He was then asked about how long he’s had his eye on this particular career. Though he said he always knew he wanted to work in Marine Science, he made his concrete decision when he was 21 years old. He always envisioned working at the Scripps’s Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, where he currently works.

After questions, attendees were dismissed. Some stayed to talk to Trager or to talk to other people who listened to the speech.

Genetics and Chemistry major Michael Rovere said he enjoyed the speech. “It excites me that one of these days I might have the opportunity to work in a field that is influential of the science community.”

Trager mentioned that on March 27, they will be having an Industrial Engineer and LMC alum to come speak about her job with USS POSCO. There will also be a couple of other speakers throughout the semester.