Longtime research leader named associate dean in the College of Health and Human Sciences

Matt Hickey speaking at the College of Health and Human Sciences Research Day in March.
Matt Hickey speaking at the College of Health and Human Sciences Research Day in March.

Matt Hickey, professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar, embodies what it means to be a committed faculty member at Colorado State University. He is a triple threat standout in teaching, research, and service. After serving for a year as the interim associate dean for research and graduate programs for the College of Health and Human Sciences, he’s now been tapped to lead the College in the permanent role.

“I am so excited to welcome Matt to the permanent role of associate dean for research and graduate programs,” said Dean Lise Youngblade. “Not only does Matt bring a wealth of knowledge and deep experience to the position, but he also brings an infectious passion for discovery related to human science. We have a uniquely diverse college in terms of the disciplines we represent and the methods of research and scholarship fundamental to each.

“Through his many roles and experiences in our college and across the campus, he is well poised to lead our efforts to support and grow our research enterprise across the college,” she added. “His commitment to student success is likewise of critical importance as we engage our students in research and scholarship and continue to grow our graduate programs. I am greatly looking forward to working with Matt on several new and exciting initiatives in the college, and promoting the excellent work that is done across all of our eight units.”

Human Performance Clinical Research Lab

 Matt Hickey and two students perform a muscle biopsy in 2002 for a research study examining the effect of protein on muscle protein synthesis.
Matt Hickey and two students perform a muscle biopsy in 2002 for a research study examining the effect of protein on muscle protein synthesis.

Hickey was born and raised in central New York near Cooperstown, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located. He earned his degrees at universities in North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana, respectively, before returning to North Carolina to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at East Carolina University.  Hickey came to CSU in 1997. He was recruited by the department head at the time, Gay Israel, as they knew each other from time together at East Carolina University. Israel had already embarked on establishing the department’s signature research facility, the Human Performance Clinical Research Laboratory.

“The chance to be involved in the construction of the HPCRL was a big draw for me in coming to CSU,” said Hickey, who serves as the lab’s director. Hickey worked with Israel to grow the lab through multiple expansion projects through the years. Hickey also chaired the Ph.D. program planning committee leading to the department launch of a Ph.D. program in Human Bioenergetics in 2007.

The HPCRL has been designated as a University Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence since 2008, and serves as a center for research and outreach to educate the public about major chronic disease etiology, prevention, intervention, and treatment. Research projects in the laboratory focus on aspects of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and degenerative conditions associated with aging.

Hickey’s own research interests address human metabolism, including the impact of diet and exercise on insulin sensitivity, insulin signaling, and skeletal muscle structure and function. Recently, he has also been focused on the topic of bioethics.

Research leader

Matt Hickey teaches a health and exercise science class in 2012.
Matt Hickey teaches a health and exercise science class in 2012.

A focus on research has always been a part of Hickey’s teaching, mentoring, and service. He has chaired CSU’s Institutional Review Board since 2003. He serves on the Bioethics Advisory Committee, which reports to the vice president for research, and he has been on the Responsible Conduct of Research Committee for more than 10 years. To promote undergraduate research, he has been a member of the steering committee for the Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity symposium for many years.

Hickey is the director of graduate programs for Health and Exercise Science, and he has served on the mentoring team for three of his colleagues with NIH Career Development (K) awards. Nationally, he has both chaired and served on special emphasis panels for the National Cancer Institute. He is the recipient of multiple awards for outstanding teaching and mentoring at CSU.

“As a University Distinguished Teaching Scholar, I am interested in the ‘teacher-scholar’ role,” he said. “This has allowed me to publish with colleagues on issues related to biomedical ethics, as well as the teaching-learning environment.”

Meeting challenges

Hickey was attracted to the associate dean position by Youngblade’s vision to raise the profile of research activities in the college. Hickey approaches the role with a service mindset, consistent with his many years serving the college on University-level committees.

“I have deep roots in this college and am happy to give back,” he said. “My aim is to support the pursuit of innovative and imaginative scholarship in all of the units. We have talented faculty, staff, and students and great potential for even more growth in extramurally supported interdisciplinary scholarship across the college.”

Since last spring, Hickey has been working with the Office of the Vice President for Research on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is a member of the Research Continuity and Recovery working group and has been engaged with researchers in the College on their plans for returning to campus to reactivate their studies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a big challenge,” he said. “A key aim for me is to learn some lessons from this so that we can be more nimble and responsive in the research enterprise as we move forward.”

The College of Health and Human Sciences encompasses a diversity of disciplines ranging from design and construction to nutrition, disease prevention, social work, education, and physical and mental health. All of these are united by a focus on health, well-being, equity, and inclusive excellence. Hickey hopes to raise the profile of the outstanding research happening in the College in diverse areas.

“I think I can help us better tell our story – who we are, how we fit together,” said Hickey. “The pursuit of a better understanding of the human person, both as individuals and in the many layered communities in which we live and work, is central to both the idea of a university and to our shared pursuit of a just society in which we can all learn and contribute.”