In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, MPFI is showcasing some of our talented researchers from Latin America, Spain, and the Caribbean. Today, we meet Matthew Pacheco, an undergraduate student at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College at FAU and a student researcher in MPFI’s Stern Lab.
Matthew’s research focuses on the study of the neural circuits associated with feeding behaviors. “As we carry on through our everyday life, it’s easy to forget about the little things that influence our actions. With feeding, there exists an interconnected mesh of influencing factors: stress, contextual cues, and more,” he explained. “Neural networks are intriguing to me for this reason. When you dive into the fine details, you realize it gets very complex. That drives my interest in needing to know more about them.”
Working at MPFI has allowed Matthew to step out of this comfort zoon and learn new skills that expand past biology, like engineering techniques that allowed him to develop automated feeding devices. His lab’s collaborative environment emphasizes the importance of teamwork, something he values from growing up with family in Ecuador and Peru. “Our culture is very collective, therefore everyone in the family is close. This creates a network of cooperative help and involvement which everyone benefits from. I find that I seek out collective environments in my professional life as well. Research has similar elements to the culture I grew up with, such as collaboration and a sense of community.”
Once he finishes his degree, Matthew plans to stay with MPFI for an additional year to gain more research experience, before going on to pursue an MD-PhD in the field of neurosurgical oncology. “Working at MPFI has solidified my decision to pursue the career of a medical scientist. The training I have received here is invaluable to my career down the line. I have learned not only techniques but methods of thinking and tackling certain problems from my PI and other mentors,” he said.
As a first-generation college student, Matthew feels it is important that his career not only focus on something he is passionate about but also provide him with stability. “I saw the sacrifices my family had to make to ensure that I could have what’s necessary to succeed. I am honoring their sacrifice while doing what I love, and I could not be more thankful for it. Overall, my heritage has played a major role in shaping who I am today. I am extremely grateful for my experience at MPFI, as it has given me the opportunity to help define my future.”