As you know, each month we feature someone in the community with Duchenne, that has done something really special to raise awareness and help us in our fight. This month, we are featuring 17-year-old Matt Scheivert, who doesn’t have Duchenne, but has already decided that he wants to continue to work in Duchenne research and advocacy. He plans to attend PPMD’s Connect Conference this June in Baltimore, to further his education and meet some of his research heroes. His passion to help our cause, on behalf of the kids with Duchenne in his school, is awe inspiring. Meet this brilliant high school sophomore and our Featured Voice for April, Matt Scheivert.
Hey Matt, great to meet you! We’re so happy to introduce you to the Duchenne community, in light of your exciting research project. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you? What grade are you in? What do you want to be when you grow up?
I am 17 years old, and currently a sophomore. Since second grade, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in politics, so when I am older I want to be a legislature of some kind.
What do you like doing for fun?
For fun, I enjoy being outside doing activities like mountain biking, hiking, running, and relaxing on a beach! I also love playing rugby, drawing, and doing debate at my high school.
Wow, you’re a busy guy. When did you learn about Duchenne? Who do you know with Duchenne?
I first learned about Duchenne a few years ago while in middle school watching the announcements regarding a fundraiser 5K. I know a teacher at my school has two sons with Duchenne, and that prompted me to want to learn more about it. So, I decided to do a research project this year for the science fair regarding it.
Tell us about your recent science fair project that focused on Duchenne.
I have always enjoyed science, and last year as a freshmen I did a project regarding one of the most fascinating animals, the Horseshoe Crab. I tested the Horseshoe Crab's blood cell's effect on different types on bacteria, to help determine how their immune system works, and how well it is adapted to their environment. The reason why, is because that animal has not structurally evolved in about 500 million years, according to fossil record, and also, they can go without food for months, which really interested me. A component in their blood may be a big step in the direction for a cure to Duchenne. I have discovered this possibility while researching Duchenne over this past summer.
So, this year I have tested my hypothesis, and also, have mathematically demonstrated this component's effect on the muscle. Furthermore, I have developed a mathematical equation that describes the functional role of the dystrophin protein more accurately, which can help determine the severity of Duchenne muscular dystrophy among patients.
This is amazing! And you’re only 17? What was the process of doing a project of this magnitude like?
This project certainly was not easy. I had to teach myself aspects of higher level math, physics, biochemistry, and biology in order to completely understand what I was tackling. I have made biological connections and breakthroughs, and have been very frustrated and down, but that is all part of research.
Honestly, I love doing research, because I am not just doing something that has been done a million times, but I am going into the unknown, like a treasure hunt, which is very stimulating and exciting to me. Also, what I love about research, is the ability to design one's own experiment, learning new things, and discovering pathways that lead to places I have never been. I particularly love researching Duchenne, because it melts my heart to know I am making a difference in a boy's life. More personaly, I see the effects of my efforts in bringing joy and hope to the teacher at my school who's sons have it, which is the greatest reward.
Amazing. Future plans for the project?
For next year, I am going to continue my research with Duchenne and seek to aim at developing an early form of a drug that can achieve what my goals are for amelioration of the disease.
What sort of accolades have you received for the project so far?
Awards include 1st Place in 10th Grade Biochemistry at the Chester County Science Research Competition, and 1st Place/Perfect Score at the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Sciences regional competition, qualifying me for States, which will be in May.
Finally, if you could have dinner with any three people, real or fictitious, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
If I could have dinner with any three people, I would choose:
Those three people would be an interesting combination to have dinner with, but I would learn a lot, have a good time, and maybe hear a few jokes.
It’s been great talking to you Matt and thank you again for your interest in Duchenne. We look forward to meeting you in person at the 2013 Connect Conference in Baltimore!
Will Nolan, Communications Director
Read more PPMD Blogs