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McCarthy Health Professions Award Winner Off to Dental School

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When Matthew Siracusa came to Cal State Fullerton as a freshman, he set his sights on pursuing a career in dentistry after shadowing his family’s dentist while in high school.

This fall, Siracusa is leaping toward realizing his goal as he begins his four-year doctor of dental medicine studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia. He also was awarded a Dean’s Scholarship of $30,000 a year for his studies.

For his high academic achievement and commitment to serve humanity, Siracusa was awarded a 2016 Miles D. McCarthy Health Professions Award, named for the founding faculty member of the Biological Science Department who started the health professions advising program more than 50 years ago.

“I’m honored to have won this award. It means that all of the hard work I put in at CSUF has paid off,” said Siracusa, who graduated summa cum laude in 2014 with a B.S. in biological science and minor in chemistry.

Since his CSUF graduation, he prepared and applied to a number of dental schools and was accepted to several, including Columbia University, UCLA and USC. He also works at UCLA conducting studies into engineering bacteria to produce sustainable industrial biofuels.

While an undergraduate, Siracusa conducted research on a certain protein’s effect on how the body reacts to stress and disease as a scholar in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Program. His faculty mentor was Nikolas Nikolaidis, associate professor of biological science.

For his research, he was awarded a $3,500 scholarship from the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology and Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research, which funds promising undergraduate student research projects in topics related to women’s health.

“Dr. Nikolaidis taught me the importance of critical thinking and instilled in me a passion for science and lifelong learning,” said Siracusa, who co-authored two scientific journal articles with his research mentor.

Siracusa also sought assistance from the Health Professions Advising Office, which provided him with advice on the dental school application process and how to be a competitive applicant. He also spent five semesters as a Supplemental Instruction leader, helping his peers understand difficult concepts and achieve in an introductory biology course, and volunteered at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach.

Siracusa wants to become a health professional to improve the quality of life for others.

“Through my experiences in the dental field I have seen firsthand how many people suffer from lack of dental care and education,” said Siracusa. “As a dentist, I want to be a leader in community outreach and use my resources to educate and provide treatment to those less fortunate. I’m looking forward to embarking on a new adventure and working towards achieving my goal of becoming a leader in the field of dental medicine.”