Curiosity in science leads to dual major in biochemistry and kinesiology


Matthew Dietz.

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One way to describe Matthew Dietz is busy.

He is pursuing a dual major in biochemistry and kinesiology with a minor in general business and is an active member of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity. Dietz, a Phoenix native, intended to play football and was dedicated to sports, but he decided to focus on academics once he started at ASU.

Dietz began as a business major, but during his freshman year his parents gave him his childhood medical records that included a brain tumor diagnosis at age 6. Studying them would be the catalyst that would change his educational goals.

Curious about science, Dietz enrolled in a couple classes to see if he even liked it — and found that he loved it. Soon after he had changed his major to biochemistry, adding kinesiology with it and kept business as a minor.

Professor Jason Houtchens for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts taught Dietz in his General Organic Chemistry II class.     

“When given an assignment Matthew completed it thoroughly and faced challenges with persistence and a critical thought process. These skills can be invaluable and are often difficult to teach,” said Houtchens. “It is often challenging for students to maintain their academic excellence and demonstrate such dedication to their field of interest and their community, but Matthew met this challenge head on. Matthew has a genuine desire to help as many people as he can, and it is my opinion that he would make an excellent addition to the medical field.”

Question: Please highlight an interesting moment or story or accomplishment in your ASU career.

Answer: Helping establish the Greek Leadership Village on a student-led Greek Life committee was the greatest accomplishment I achieved while in college. It’s a facility which unites our Greek community, magnifies the footprint of ASU, and has hallmarked a great blend between awesome facilities and amazing Greek culture from all our fraternity, sorority and multicultural organizations. I’m incredibly happy to have been part of the group to see this project brought to fruition.

Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A: As I came into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I started off in business, but I wasn’t certain if that was my path. Before my freshman semester ended, my family gave me all my old medical files which included my history of a pediatric brain tumor at age 6. Reading these documents gave me a different perception, and I became curious to study life sciences. After taking several science courses the following semester, I became dedicated to pursue biochemistry and another degree in kinesiology.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned how to be a better student and professional, but more importantly, I became a leader, which is a product of my time in ASU Greek Life. I can’t express the number of life lessons I learned, or the magnitude of connections I made in my time while working in the Greek community and as a member of Kappa Alpha Order. The most standout perspective change that I experienced was actually during a trip to Lexington, Virginia, where I was attending my fraternity’s national convention. At the airport, I noticed several strangers wearing the KA letters and approached them. We did our ritual greetings, and in that moment I thought it was so awesome that I barely knew these individuals, but because of their affiliation with KA, I knew that they stood for all the same values and aims which I identify with: brotherhood, knowledge, reverence, gentility, leadership and excellence. In a way, I knew everything about them because of their affiliation with my fraternity. It was awesome. Moments like this one occurred often in Greek Life. It surely was the best decision I ever made while in college at ASU. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: The location was close to home and there was a remarkable amount of opportunity for me to explore my academic interests.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Jason Houtchens was my favorite professor while at ASU. He taught me so much about how to stay persistent and driven to achieve my goals while at ASU. My path wasn’t a normal four-year graduation plan; because of my desire to finish two degrees and a minor, I took an extra year to finish. Dr. Houtchens challenged me to stay focused and encouraged me to do my best at all times while juggling multiple jobs and my degrees. In fact, his daily schedule modeled very similarly to mine, and despite his busy class schedule, extracurricular work with Princeton Review, many students emailing him organic chemistry questions and having a family life at home, he knew how to be efficient and organized to be successful. I learned a lot from him in the classroom as a student, but he was the most encouraging and helpful professor I have ever worked with at ASU, which has rubbed off on me as a student and individual.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Do everything you can to obtain effective grades and resolve your finance expenses in school, but take any chance you get to relax and experience something new. I discovered more about myself outside of the classroom in college than I did while studying for biochemistry exams. I established tons of relationships and worked on awesome projects in extracurricular groups outside class which lead me to meet amazing people, some of which are my best friends now. I definitely recommend having an involvement in some sort of social organization or club while at ASU.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite place to study at ASU was definitely Hayden library, third floor.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to attend medical school.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Provide all this money to scholarship funds or loan forgiveness programs to students who complete college with degrees. Too many students suffer in paying back loans following their completion from college. It needs to be an exciting time to start your career following college, not a “scary” or “anxious” time to constantly be thinking about paying back loans while managing your new career.

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