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Matthews receives 2018 Penn State Alumni Achievement Award
20 March 2018

The Penn State Alumni Association will honor Eberly College of Science alumna Megan Matthews with the Alumni Achievement Award.


Megan Matthews is an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from Penn State with a doctoral degree in chemistry in 2011. Working in the laboratory of Marty Bollinger, professor of chemistry, Matthews was a creative thinker who led the Bollinger lab in new directions. Ultimately, her discoveries would turn established dogma on its head and take the entire field in a new direction.

Megan MatthewsSpecifically, Matthews’ work has led to a hypothesis for how the key step in hydroxylation — known as oxygen rebound — is suppressed to allow other outcomes that are crucial for drug biosynthesis. The work prompted a whole community of researchers to look for cases of suppressed oxygen rebound in related enzyme families and to test ideas, based on frontier molecular orbital analysis, for how this suppression arises.

In other research, Matthews has investigated the prevalence of undiscovered protein-bound electrophiles, as well as the functions and dysfunctions that the unknown electrophiles might impart. She discovered a protein modification, an N-terminal glyoxylyl group derived from a cysteine residue, which is likely to be deployed in catalysis. She also found electrophiles in proteins that are implicated in causing cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Tracking down these and a host of other leads will likely play an important role in the development of new drugs for Alzheimer’s.

After graduating from Penn State, Matthews served as the Merck Fellow of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation at the Scripps Research Institute. In July 2017, she started a faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania. Matthews currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Alumni Achievement Award recipients are nominated by an academic college or campus and invited by the president of the University to return to Penn State to share their expertise with students and the University community. Honorees demonstrate to students that Penn State alumni succeed in exceptional fashion at an early age.

The Alumni Achievement Award began in 2005, and since then has honored 140 outstanding alumni, including this year's class. 

The award recipients will meet and talk with students on March 22 at the Hintz Family Alumni Center, the day before the award ceremony.

Matthews will also give an informal talk to science students on March 23 at 10:30 a.m. on the Willaman Gateway to the Sciences, between Chemistry and Huck Life Sciences Buildings at University Park.