Four years go by in the blink of an eye.
Even more so when you’re graduating a semester early.
Graduating in December 2023, Thomas Mataya reflects on his three and a half years at Missouri State University and what his future holds.
Mataya’s Missouri Statement
For the last two and a half years, he has been a student in Dr. Laszlo Kovacs’s lab.
“With Dr. Kovacs, I’m studying the root systems architecture of grapevine,” Mataya said. “I’m investigating both the genetic and environmental influences that determine how the root system of grapevine is identified and what that looks like.”
This was the focus of his project as a student in the Honors College and an accelerated path. It involved the planting of a large number of grapevines and the imaging and analysis of the architecture of their root system.
His results led to the formulation of hypotheses for future studies on the genetics of root system architecture in grapevines.
Mataya has made a positive impression on Kovacs.
“Thomas has been among the most focused and conscientious students I’ve worked with,” Kovacs said. “It didn’t matter if he had a simple greenhouse task or a complex data analysis assignment, he performed his work with the same dedication.”
Mataya has also developed important relationships during his time at MSU.
“My advisor, Angela Plank, has been instrumental in encouraging me to do my very best,” he said. “The MSU community is also great. Meeting people through courses and especially societies has allowed me to find similar students to interact with.”
Last year, Mataya served as secretary in MSU’s Pre-Dental Society. This role involved organizing meetings, gathering speakers and general management tasks.
These kinds of experiences have created bonds with others that foster the encouragement and confidence Mataya will need for his future in dental school.
“Post-graduation, I’ll stay in Springfield for the spring,” Mataya said. “During this time, I plan to work as a dental assistant and a substitute teacher in the Springfield area. I also will continue volunteering with Ozarks Food Harvest. In the fall, I’ll start dental school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).”
Mataya was accepted to UMKC Dental School as part of their reserved admissions process.
Mataya’s hard work has been recognized by MSU.
He is the recipient of these scholarships:
- Board of Governors Scholarship.
- Dr. Roland Kimball Memorial Scholarship.
- Tom Stombaugh Scholarship.
- Bright Flight Scholarship.
- Biology Alumni Scholarship.
He has also made the dean’s list every semester.
Excellence outside of the classroom
Mataya has kept busy outside of his studies.
He is actively involved in the Springfield and St. Louis communities through local food banks, religious retreats and special education programs.
One organization he spends a lot of time with is Ozarks Food Harvest, a local food bank that serves over 250 hunger-relief organizations across 28 Ozarks counties.
“I’ve volunteered in their Victory Gardens planting produce, harvesting and other farm-related activities,” Mataya said. “I find it rewarding and look forward to continuing my service after I graduate.”
In St. Louis, his hometown, Mataya spends time as a Special School District classroom aide during his summers.
“This summer program is for preschool-aged students with intensive needs,” Mataya said. “I’ve loved working with the students in the classroom and playing with them on the playground.”
As he finishes his final semester at MSU, Mataya feels confident in his future.
“MSU has very much encouraged me to succeed in all my endeavors,” he said. “I look forward to a successful future after a wonderful three and a half years.”