Trustees’ Award winner permeates social settings with love of science

At three years old, Shayle Matsuda’s fight with cancer sparked an interest in science. As a biology graduate student at SF State with a 4.0 GPA, he is now an awardee of the 2014 California State University (CSU) Trustees’ Award for outstanding grades and community work.

“I was interested in finding out why I didn’t feel good and why I had to go to the doctor,” he said. “Since then, science has always had a pretty strong presence in my life.”

Shayle Matsuda stands in the specimen storage in the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday September 15, 2014. Daniel Porter / Xpress.

Shayle Matsuda stands in the specimen storage in the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday September 15, 2014. Daniel Porter / Xpress.

Matsuda is one of 23 students presented with the 2014 CSU Trustees’ Award, the highest honor in the state’s public school system. The title is bestowed upon one student from each campus every year.

“I was really surprised and honored,” Matsuda said. “Just to have that kind of recognition and distinction was incredibly humbling.”

The Award Selection Committee chose Shayle as the recipient and he accepted the award in Long Beach. They designated Matsuda as the Trustee Emeritus Murray L. Galinson Scholar, one of the many awards offered.

His motivation and curiosity is what set him apart from most students according to his former instructor Greg Spicer, professor of biology at SF State.

“Anyone who is that interested and that dedicated to what they’re doing will definitely go on to do great things,” Spicer said.

Matsuda conducts research at the California Academy of Sciences, diving into the evolutionary and biogenetic relationships between different groups of nudibranchs, a type of sea-mollusk which are often called sea slugs.

Not only does he continue to develop his passion for the subject, but has shared his interest with the community around him since his teenage years. Now an active mentor in the youth education department at the California Academy of Sciences, he works with youth, particularly those at-risk and minorities.

This passion for using science as a medium to uplift young minds led to him forming a summer happy hour series called “Science, Neat” where people meet up at a local bar to network amid live demonstrations and talks. The idea is to create a more casual space for scientists of all ages, especially younger scientists.

“It’s a good opportunity to get people talking about research that we are all doing and to make connections and collaborations,” Matsuda said. “I love it, it’s a lot of fun and I have met a lot of great folks from all different schools in the Bay Area.”

Saray Dugas, Matsuda’s public relations advisor for “Science, Neat” and friend, said he is one of the most thoughtful and honest people she knows.

“Shayle is a very unique scientist,” Dugas said. “He blends his passion for the natural world, science education and outreach, and many other things in a way that is the complete package.”

Matsuda is set to graduate spring of 2015, and plans to pursue a doctorate in evolutionary and marine biology. “My experiences up to this point have been very rich and it’s prepared me to take on these challenges,” he said. “It has been very fulfilling and I’m really excited for the future.”

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