Student researcher beats tough odds


Being an 18-year old single parent and living through a dangerous childhood did not stop one student from achieving his goal of pursuing a university education.

“I have always wanted to be a doctor since I was eight and have never given up on my dream,” neuroscience senior Matt Hosek said.

In the second and third grade, Hosek had serious problems with keeping his attention in the classroom. The problems continued until 1986, when a doctor with the Easter Seals Society screened and enrolled him into a clinical trial for ADHD. With the help of group therapy and education, Hosek went from being on the last leg at his school to excelling in every class. Hosek decided that he wanted to make it his mission in life to help others in the same way.

Growing up in a poor south Dallas neighborhood where it was not unusual to hear gunshots from local gangs and their enforcers, Hosek was forced to drop out of high school to work at the age of 16. A single father at 18, he had to work various full time jobs to support and take care of his new family.

His son is now 16 and is on his way to successfully graduating high school while also being a JROTC member.

“I decided that I could go back to school as soon as my son was old enough to go on his own,” Hosek said.

While working a full time job at a local bank, he took classes at Collin County Community College after work to fulfill his pre-med prerequisite courses and graduated with an associate degree in science.

By then he was married to Karah, who completed graduate school from UTD, and he transferred the university to continue his education. Karah currently works as the associate director for communications in the Jindal School of Management and Hosek works full time as the event coordinator at the Granville Arts Center in Garland while attending classes and working at the Ploski Lab.

“Matt showed up one morning holding a gizmo he designed and built himself and it transformed how we purify the viruses we make in the lab,” said Jon Ploski, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Hosek’s ability to build and fix things in the lab as needed is a skill he picked up while working as part of a pit crew at the local racetracks before he went back to school.

Hosek took Ploski’s molecular neuroscience course and was asked to join Ploski’s lab at the Natural Science and Engineering laboratory.

The neuroscience lab uses cutting edge molecular cell biology techniques to create virus particles. These viruses are then used to deliver a genetic package to the rat amygdala that can increase or decrease the expression of specific genes. When the expression of these genes are increased or decreased, it affects the memory and learning process. Learning the role of these molecules help in elucidating the key components of how memory is formed, Ploski said.

Hosek is now a second author on a paper published in the September edition of ***Neurobiology of Learning and Memory,*** a reputed neuroscience journal. He will also be presenting the paper at the annual Pavlovian conference in Austin at the end of the month. The amygdala in mammalian brains plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and the behavior learning process.

Hosek, along with other students in the lab, came up with a novel way of differentiating gene expression between the nuclei of interest in the amygdala, the almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain.

“Matt contributed significantly to the project as he is very adept at data analysis,” said Alex Partin, first author on the paper and now a neuroscience Ph.D. student at UT Southwestern.

Their research provides scientists in the field of memory and learning a road map to the genes involved with some genes that have not been studied before, Hosek said. In addition to his authorship on this paper, Hosek is on his way to becoming an author on a second paper that has been submitted for publication.

In his spare time, Hosek serves on various committees for the Garland Chamber of Commerce Leadership program, works for the Audio-Visual Broadcast ministry of the Eastridge Church of Christ and talks to youth about staying away from the gangster life and making the right choices.


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