Matson Grew UNC’s Grad School, to Return to Biology Faculty

Steve Matson

Steve Matson

After nearly a decade leading UNC’s Graduate School, Steven W. Matson is stepping down as dean.

Matson, a biology professor who specializes in genetics and molecular biology, will return to the biology department once a successor is in place. He has led the Graduate School since July 2008, when the school had 8,275 graduate students in 66 doctoral and 100 master’s programs; at that time, UNC also had about 2,400 professional students. UNC now has 8,532 graduate students and more than 2,500 professional students.

Prior to moving to the Graduate School, Matson was chair of the biology department.

“From the beginning of his tenure, [Matson] understood that graduate education was changing — from primarily preparing the next generation of academics to preparing the next generation of academics and business, nonprofit and civic leaders,” Bob Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost, wrote in a message to the campus community.

Under Matson’s leadership, Blouin wrote, “the Graduate School developed a number of professional development programs to address this need in graduate education.”

Notably among those developed is the Graduate School Professional Development program, a collection of workshops and courses focused on developing competencies in communication, academic development, leadership, professionalism and career development. The school also launched the professional science master’s degrees, designed to meet the needs of professionals who want to expand their technical and business knowledge and apply it to emerging professional fields within science and health.

Matson has been a member of the faculty since 1983 and is widely respected for his teaching, mentoring and research in the field of genetics and molecular biology. On the national level, Matson is a recipient of the American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award and has served as a reviewer for the Journal of Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Biological Chemistry, where he served as an editorial board member from 2000 to 2005.

At Carolina, he has taught a variety of courses, including Current Topics in Biology, Advanced Molecular Biology, Advanced Cell Biology and honors sections of Genetics and Molecular Biology. A 2004 recipient of the University’s Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and a 2005 Institute of Arts and Humanities Leadership Fellow, Matson also has been a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, Bank of America Distinguished Professorship review panel and Honors Program Faculty Advisory Board. He is a past member and chair of the Pre-health Professions Advising Task Force and has served on various University administrative review committees through the years.

Matson’s research focuses on DNA repair, conjugative DNA transfer and enzymatic mechanisms and biological roles of DNA helicases. His laboratory’s long-term goal is to understand the molecular role of several helicases in the bacterium E. coli and the budding yeast S. cerevisiae.

A native of Coos Bay, Ore., Matson earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Colgate University. His master’s and doctoral degrees are from the University of Rochester, both in biochemistry.

An earlier version of this story omitted the number of professional students in 2008. 

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