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Matthew Hull

Matthew Hull

Nanotechnology, Ecotoxicology, Sustainability, Entrepreneurship

I studied environmental science as an undergrad at Ferrum College. From there, I first came to Virginia Tech to pursue a master's degree in Don Cherry's ecotoxicology lab. Next, I went to work for a small tech firm where I explored the interfaces of nanotechnology and the environment. I returned to Virginia Tech to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental engineering with Peter Vikesland and Nancy Love. Around that time, I started NanoSafe in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC). After completing my doctorate degree, I took a position with the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) and have been with Virginia Tech ever since. 

My interests combine sustainability, converging technologies, and entrepreneurship. I'm fascinated by the applications and implications of nanotechnology, and those interests have translated into other emerging technology domains. Emerging technologies offer so much promise toward solving human health and sustainability challenges; conversely, they can create new challenges. Entrepreneurship goes hand in hand with those topics, and I enjoy connecting with student and faculty entrepreneurs. 

My current research criss-crosses disciplinary boundaries. I'm broadly focused on sustainability applications and implications of emerging technologies, particularly nanotechnology. I'm currently adapting a safety framework I developed for nano to help reduce COVID-19 risks in small businesses. I'm also working with an interdisciplinary team to develop technology-enhanced ways of communicating with the public about sustainability.


I first discovered a passion for this work ...

There was no real "aha moment" for me. It's been more of a gradual acceptance of who I am and how my work can benefit others. The fire can come and go. There are times you take it one day at a time, wondering if your work makes any difference at all. Then there's 2020, where there was this burning desire to work night and day to address COVID-19 research challenges with immediate real-world impact.

 

My work impacts society ...

I'm sensitive to the safety of blue-collar workers and families and the sustainability of our planet. My work tends to gravitate toward those aspects of society.

 

I wish I invented ...

SkyGuide! As a kid, I envisioned this tool. I could never make out the constellations in the night sky and imagined a telescope that could automatically connect the stars. I had an analog solution in mind, but it turns out that the digital revolution led to a two dollar app that does the job remarkably better than I could!

 

My favorite quote ....

That has to be the "Think Different" ad by Apple/Steve Jobs 1997: "Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

 

Something that excites me in my field ...

I find myself transitioning more into a mentorship role in my field, and that has been very exciting – more so than I ever really imagined. As you build your career, there’s this constant pressure to climb some never-ending professional ladder and that’s just no longer appealing, exciting, or sustainable to me. This transition has brought me comfort – in allowing me to relax – and joy in helping others achieve their career goals.

 

I see the future in my field ...

Becoming more diverse and inclusive. I’d like to challenge those in my field to find those cultural and political viewpoints that upset, confuse, or anger them and to seek ways to better understand and engage them. While our outputs must always be rigorously measured and vetted, for example with vaccines, publications, standards, engineered systems, our institutions, tools, and programs must be broadly accessible to maximize the diversity of viewpoints considered.

The most formative experience I've had ...

Playing outdoors and in creeks, tinkering with lawnmowers and cars, and, most importantly, having family, friends, mentors, and coaches who encouraged me. There have been so many people in my life who looked out for me.

 

Groups or organizations I am involved in ...

ICTAS, NanoEarth, Macromolecules Innovation Institute, Tech for Humanity, Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, Academy of Integrated Science, Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health, VTCRC, NanoSafe, Kiva, American Chemical Society, Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization.

 

Honor or award I am most proud of ...

That very few of my friends and family know I have a Ph.D.! I’d rather be relatable than accomplished.

 

Last article I read ...

I’ll give you the last article and last book! Last article: “Government needs innovators, entrepreneurs, and disruptors: If you want to make large-scale change in the world, consider a stint in public service” (by Sean McManus and Brett Dobbs, published 2/10/21 in Fast Company). I also just wrapped up a book my daughter picked out for me for Christmas: "Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans" (by AJ Baime).

 

Words of encouragement to an aspiring inventor ...

Nike coined a great slogan in the late 80's that encouraged athletes to JUST DO IT. I’d say those are pretty good words for aspiring inventors, too. Don’t get hung up on what you don’t know or how your idea might be perceived. I’ve had terrible ideas, but I’ve also had some pretty good ones.

 

If I had a superpower, it would be ...

It'd definitely be to stop time for a little while — my kids are growing up way too fast!

 

In my free time ...

Relaxing outdoors, cup of coffee in hand, surrounded by my family, or my pod during COVID-19 times.

 

Best part of working at Virginia Tech ...

This is home. I grew up 30 minutes from here - I feel that Virginia Tech and I are here, together, for a reason.

 

Additional Highlights

Matthew Hull    |   Research and Scholarship Program Manager

ICTAS @ VT

mahull@vt.edu

(540) 231-5812


Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science - Faculty Bio Page

 

 

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