Alum Matt Hinderhofer 17F Researching Type-I Diabetes at Harvard

Recent graduate, Matt Hinderhofer 17F studied the effects of CBD on colorectal cancer cells while a student at Hampshire. They’re now working at the Melton Lab at Harvard, researching type-I diabetes. We sat down for a virtual interview with them to talk about their Hampshire journey and what they’re up to now.

What did you study at Hampshire? What was your Div III?

For my Div III, I studied the effects of CBD on colorectal cancer cells. They were HCT-116 cells that I grew in culture throughout the year, and I treated them with various doses of cannabidiol or CBD. Then I did apoptosis assays on them and looked at the gene expression changes. So, basically, I watched how quickly the cells died when I treated them with CBD. I also used a control treatment to see if it was actually the CBD that was killing them. At the end, I was able to show all these different apoptosis markers that were upregulated, so it suggested that CBD was directly killing the cancer cells.

Were there particular faculty/staff members who inspired/supported you?

I have a ton of shout-outs. My advisor, [Professor of Molecular Biology] John Castorino, did just about everything to help me succeed. [Professors of Biology] Megan Dobro and Jason Tor were also really supportive and incredible to work with during the beginning of my time at Hampshire. My first-year advisor, [Professor of Applied Design] Donna Cohn, is the one who got me into biology. I came to Hampshire wanting to study engineering, and Donna said to me, “You’re clearly a science student—why aren’t you taking any science classes?” She convinced me to take a course on slime mold, which low-key changed my life. Slime mold breaks just about every rule of science, and it was crazy to take advantage of that and do a bunch of weird experiments with it.

What are you doing now? How did your experience here influence your current work?

I work at the Melton Lab at Harvard, where I culture stem cells and I differentiate them into beta cells, which are used for research for type-I diabetes therapies.

I heard about the job because of another Hampshire alum, Elaine Robinson 17F, who works in the lab. She studied stem cell differentiation, and she emailed me one day and said, “We have a job opening in my lab and I think you would be great for it.” There now are three of us from Hampshire in the lab. Our experiences at Hampshire taught us how to figure things out, try weird stuff, and make mistakes on our own, and I think Harvard was like “yeah, this is exactly what we’re looking for.”

Our experiences at Hampshire taught us how to figure things out, try weird stuff, and make mistakes on our own, and I think Harvard was like, ‘Yeah, this is exactly what we’re looking for.’
Matt Hinderhofer 17F

Are there specific achievements you’d like to share?

Oh, god. I definitely loved all of the things that I accomplished at Hampshire… just doing research on cancer cells or slime mold or making beer and getting to talk to people about the most off-the-wall research ideas. It’s crazy realizing how much I was able to accomplish in my time at Hampshire.

What would you say to a prospective student?

Hampshire is just such an amazing place—you get to go there and do what you want. I treated cancer cells with CBD and watched how they died. It was kinda incredible. I don't know anywhere else where I would’ve been able to do that. You get to do so many different things and you never know what kind of opportunities may open up along the way.

The main thing I’d tell prospective students is to just go ahead and try everything.

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