Student Earns First Computational and Integrative Biology Ph.D.

Matt Niepielko

Matt Niepielko

Matt Niepielko’s Rutgers–Camden education has been like creating an ice cream sundae with all of the best ingredients.  Instead of having just one “flavor,” the Toms River resident has combined biology, chemistry, and physics with the analytic methods of mathematics and computer science to gain the ultimate collaborative experience.

On May 22, Niepielko will become the first Rutgers University–Camden student to graduate with a doctoral degree in computational and integrative biology, a discipline that combines biomedical research with computational technology.

“It is such an honor to be the first Ph.D. graduate in computational and integrative biology,” says Niepielko, a Toms River resident. “It has been very exciting to see the program grow and I’m so proud to be a part of it. I hope that my success here will inspire other students and help launch future research projects for incoming students.”

Niepielko, a 2003 graduate of Toms River High School North, earned his bachelor’s degree from Stockton College in 2008 and his master’s degree from Rutgers–Camden in 2010.  He became one of the first doctoral students in computational and integrative biology at Rutgers–Camden and says he decided to pursue a degree in the new field because it is a unique area of science that enables collaboration between different disciplines.

In 2008, Rutgers–Camden established the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology to support research projects and share data in a cooperative environment that supports the integration of the sciences and math.

“Working in the CCIB has allowed me to collaborate and work closely with experts in and outside my field,” says Niepielko, who earned his master’s degree in biology. “Having this experience has given me the chance to advance my career in an innovative field where computer scientists, mathematicians, and biologists work together and solve complex biological questions.”

Niepielko says he has gained knowledge to help solve problems that will require an interdisciplinary approach, and credits Rutgers–Camden faculty members Nir Yakoby, an associate professor of biology, and Benedetto Piccoli, the Joseph and Loretta Lopez Chair in Mathematics and Ph.D. program director for the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, with supporting his work.

“It is very exciting to enter this expanding area of science,” Niepielko says.

This year, Niepielko was one of 11 early career scientists named as spring 2014 recipients of the DeLill Nasser Award for Professional Development in Genetics from the Genetics Society of America.  The prestigious award is bestowed upon graduate students and postdoctoral trainees to support travel costs for national and international meetings and enrollment in laboratory courses.

In late March, Niepielko joined the nation’s leading researchers in Drosophila genetics for the 55th Annual Drosophila Research Conference in San Diego.  While there, he shared his three published papers on gene regulation and cell signaling in the Drosophila species.

Niepielko was also the 2013 recipient of Rutgers–Camden’s Lansbury Prize for Academic Excellence, which recognizes outstanding performance by a graduate student.

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