Doctoral candidate Matthew Mietchen is hopeful his research at Washington State University will help to create a better understanding of how and why infections move through populations — and save lives.
A student in the Individual Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, Matthew’s research in Dr. Eric Lofgren’s lab is focused on mathematical modeling of infectious diseases, specifically the transmission of healthcare-associated infections like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, in both hospital and community settings.
“I'm primarily interested in studying specific population interactions that affect pathogen transmission using various disease models,” Matthew said. “Currently, my work involves developing an inter-specific social contact network involving companion animals and studying pathogen transmission throughout a community.”
Matthew, a first-generation college graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2005 at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a Master of Public Health from the University of Utah in 2009 before taking a position as an infectious disease epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health. He moved to Pullman in 2017 to pursue his doctorate.
“Epidemiology, and public health in general, is a broad, diverse, and exciting field,” Matthew said. “It has 'all the things' and is inherently interdisciplinary. You need to have some understanding in immunology, biology, microbiology, medicine, statistics, mathematics, computer science, network science, engineering, social justice, science and health policy, and that's just scratching the surface of all the epidemiological methods used to determine if an exposure-outcome association exists or understand how infections move throughout a population and why.”
While Matthew is dedicated to his research, he also is committed to his family. He and his wife have a pair of dogs and three cats, and on Jan. 2, the couple welcomed a new two-legged member to the family.
“With the addition of our daughter, Evalyn, to the fold, it's a fun and energetic household to say the least,” Matthew said.
When Matthew is awarded his doctorate, he hopes to sharpen his mathematical modeling and epidemiological skill set in a post-doctoral fellowship.
“While I do not have something lined up, I feel I will have many opportunities to do research in my field and eventually obtain a faculty position,” he said. “However, in these uncertain times, I am also open to exploring other opportunities should something arise. I say this to support my other fellow grad students to always be open to an unknown or unexpected path. Honestly, I would not be here today if I didn't take a chance and try a path I previously thought was unavailable to me.”