Alumni Spotlight: Matthew Clay

Matt Clay headshot

Current Employer:

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Job Title:

Scientist III

Home Town:

Grand Ledge, MI

Current Location:

Madison, WI

Research Topic:

Molecular characterization of zebrafish neural crest cell epithelial to mesenchymal transition

Faculty Advisor:

Mary Halloran

CMB Degree Received in:


Describe your current position:

I perform drug discovery-focused cell-based and biochemical pathway screening for clients. In addition to running assays, I am a technical lead and investigate and/or troubleshoot assays when atypical results are obtained. I also perform custom services for our group, which can include custom assay development, transfer, execution, analysis, and reporting.

Describe your career path from graduate school to your current position.

After graduate school I did a postdoc at Duke University. Things were going well and I was doing the things you were “supposed” to do (i.e., earned a fellowship, published papers, attended meetings, networked, attended workshops), but I found that I was feeling disconnected from my research. Eventually, I realized that an academic faculty career of any type was not where I wished to be. I began attending professional development seminars for various careers outside of academia. While researching career options, I was presented an opportunity to join a Biotech company in Madison from a colleague I knew through UW, which I decided to accept, leading me to back to Madison and into industry.

How did your experience with CMB shape your career?

My professional network is rich and broad. Through my CMB colleagues, I know people involved in all areas of science including research, teaching, industry, writing, service, intellectual property, I’m sure there are more! I was provided with the opportunity to hone my scientific skills with an amazing group of peers and mentors and the lessons I learned from those people serve me well every day in and out of science.

What made you decide to pursue a PhD with CMB at UW-Madison?

The quality of faculty, university reputation, and city of Madison were all appealing. Upon going on interviews, CMB students were some of the happiest that I interacted with, which was a big positive for me. I wanted to attend a program where I would work and be challenged, but also one where I would enjoy myself and my surroundings.

Describe a “day in the life” of your current job.

There is no routine day at my work. In a given week, I will likely run a catalog assay, but we offer so many types that I am rarely doing the same thing twice in a week. Since I work on custom projects as well, I am presented with diverse and changing opportunities as well as more in-depth interaction with customers. My days are diverse and that is how I like it!

What do you like best and what do you find most challenging about your current job?

I love the diversity of projects that I get to work on, that I get to work at the bench, and that I support various pre-clinical, drug discovery focused clients. I feel like I am doing important work to progress our clients’ paths forward making new discoveries. A challenge that comes along with that is that I do not have control or knowledge of how the data is applied after if leaves our hands.

What is your favorite story/memory from your time in CMB?

CMB retreats were amazing! Given that they were student-only, many outsiders assumed that we didn’t do much actual work. However, retreat was a great time to catch up on everyone’s work and over the years additional sessions and professional development were added. Just another example of how CMB students struck an amazing balance of hard work and high achievement, all while managing to have fun and a few laughs along the way.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their careers?

Network and network in a diverse manner. You never know where your path will take you. Other people have been through it and are willing to help, but you have to know who to talk to! Use the resource of the people you know, the people they know, and the people they know.