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Matthew Khan ’15, ’17 MS

By being exposed to research and understanding scientific literature, as well as preparing presentations, the biologist built a solid foundation at Montclair State to perform his public outreach responsibilities all along the east coast.

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Nature always has fascinated Matthew Khan ’15, ’17 MS. Prior to attending Montclair State, Khan studied fine arts at Raritan Valley Community College. That’s where an environmental science class that required a beach cleanup at Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area opened his eyes. Khan was in complete disbelief of the amount of plastic polluting the ocean. That moment changed his life, and he was determined to be involved in environmental protection.

With a specific interest in microplastic, Khan transferred to Montclair State as a marine biology and coastal sciences major. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in 2015, he continued his education in the same field by pursuing a Master of Science at his alma mater.

As a student, Khan was determined to learn more about the dangers of microplastic pollution to the environment. He combined his undergraduate research with his graduate research to focus on microplastic pollution and its effect on ribbed marsh mussels in Sandy Hook. Khan’s hard work paid off as his research was published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.

“The program at Montclair State provided me the science education to understand how natural systems work,” says Khan. “This training helped me perform my tasks with the AmeriCorps and as an Endangered Species Observer.”

After completing his graduate program in 2017, he headed to Jekyll Island, Georgia, to serve for a year with AmeriCorps at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Part of his role was to keep up with the latest marine pollution research and communicate the information to the public.

“By being exposed to research and understanding scientific literature, as well as preparing presentations, I built a solid foundation at Montclair State to perform my public outreach responsibilities at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center,” he explains.

After his role with AmeriCorps, Khan gained additional experience as an endangered species observer aboard hopper dredgers – marine vessels that dredge sea beds to create and maintain safe and navigable shipping lanes for ships heading into ports.

“My task was to keep an eye out for whales and sea turtles, ensuring that the construction equipment was within compliance, and to document any interactions with endangered species,” says Khan.

At Montclair State, Khan spent most of his time working in Dr. Robert Prezant’s marine biology lab, processing samples for two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded contracts, as well as his own undergraduate and graduate research. He also served as a mentor for the Weston Science Scholars program and as a visiting scientist for the National Geographic’s BioBlitz. Passionate about his studies, Khan also spent a summer working in Dr. Paul Bologna’s laboratory collecting and processing pelagic samples from the Barnegat Bay.

Khan is appreciative of his education at Montclair State and of those who contributed to his success.

“Dr. Prezant was always patient and always gave me the benefit of the doubt,” he says. “When I approached him with my plan for research, despite the topic being outside his realm of expertise and extremely arduous for any student to take on, he did not discourage me. He allowed me to make decisions and learn from my own mistakes.”

All of his hard work has brought Khan to take on his “dream job” with the EPA in Washington, D.C. In July, he will be serving his country as a biologist for the Office of Pesticide Registration Review. In his new role, Khan is tasked with ensuring chemical use is compliant with the latest environmental regulations.

“I am excited to work with a group of people equally passionate and dedicated as I am to protecting the environment and protecting the people who rely on that environment,” says Khan.