Meet DEB: Matt Olson


Merry with her human, Matt Olson.

What’s your name and role here at DEB?

My name is Matt Olson and I am a rotating Program Officer with the Evolutionary Processes Cluster.

Where did you go to school?

I earned a B.S. University of Texas, Austin, M.S. Louisiana State University, and my Ph.D. at Duke University.

Where is your home institution?       

Texas Tech University.

Tell us about your research.

I am an evolutionary ecologist, which means that I study how genetic and ecological factors influence how a species will change over time. My current scientific interests aim to understand how sex chromosomes (like the male Y chromosome) evolve in plants. Sex chromosomes are found in less than 5% of all plants, and in most cases, they have evolved very recently. Because they are young, we can study the formative stages of sex chromosome evolution including how they move around the genome and how ecological factors may influence their development. My work leverages a mix of ecology, genomics, bioinformatics, and molecular biology, so it is always very exciting and integrative. I often must collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines. One of my current collaborations is with colleagues in Chengdu and Nanjing, China, which has provided some great opportunities for both scientific and cultural exchange.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? 

Since I served on my first grant review panel, I have been impressed with the efficient, transparent, and ethical character of the NSF. I am keen to learn more about how the foundation functions, so that I can apply these ideals more broadly to other aspects of my work and personal life. I also have been fortunate to have several of my proposals funded by the NSF, and I would like to give back to the organization by serving in a more administrative role. Finally, I hope to draw on my experience as a scientist and teacher to help steer the foundation as we move into the future.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? 

I love working and exchanging ideas with other scientists. The National Science Foundation not only helps scientists to realize their goals via funding, but also serves as a nexus for interaction during panel reviews, site visits, and outreach. I am looking forward to meeting the large number of scientists that will be coming to the NSF during my rotation here and talking with them about their research and our common scientific interests. Who knows? Maybe we will come up with a new collaborative research idea that will solve some of the worlds’ great challenges!