Matt McKinney, Knox Class of 2013, is part of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gaz...
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Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
McNair Scholar, Student-Athlete
Major in Chemistry, Minor in Biochemistry
You recently placed first in the 60 meter dash in the Midwest Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships, where you broke the school record. But your trajectory to the championship wasn't a smooth one. Tell us about your journey.
My first year was a struggle because I broke my collarbone playing football. I spent the track season trying to get back in shape and adjust mentally to being both a student and an athlete. I came a lot closer to the conference championship in the 60 meter my sophomore year, but I stumbled coming out of the blocks. If you know anything about the 60, it's tremendously hard to catch up and place when that happens. That lit a fire in me to push to be better. That outdoor season, I broke the school record for the 100 meter and we broke the record for the 4X400 meter relay. That gave me confidence going into the season this year.
How has this experience had an impact on you?
Through this entire process, it's shown a side of me that I didn't know I had before. I've realized my strengths and weaknesses, not just as an athlete, but as a student.
As a student, you did chemistry research last summer as a McNair Scholar. What was that experience like?
I'm really interested in becoming a chemist or professor. To get ahead in those fields, summer research helps. It's also a great time to gain experience in the field and allowed me to solidify my future interests. My research is branched off of the work of my mentor, Thomas Clayton, [professor of chemistry]. The main goal of the project is to create good liquid crystals around room temperature.
What about Knox surprised you?
At first I was skeptical about Knox just because of growing up in a big city. There was always a side of me that enjoyed the quiet. Being at Knox helped me to realize that the city is too big and active for me, and I was able to understand myself more than I would have in a larger environment. On top of that, my interests have broadened. Coming in I was so set on majoring in biology, but that changed and allowed me to realize my interest in chemistry. That interest stacked and evolved into me wanting to pursue more hands-on chemistry, like research. Knox has really molded my personality, too. Being the awkward introvert that I am, this environment has taught me how to handle that. In situations where I need to converse, I can hold a meaningful conversation. That's helped me become more social than I have ever been.