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​GSBS Alum Dr. Matt Rowan Passes Away in Tragic Accident

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: In The News | August 03, 2016

Dr. Matt Rowan, a graduate of the Pharmacology Ph.D. program, passed away on Saturday, July 30 in a hot air balloon crash near Lockhart, Texas.

The crash killed 16 people including Matt’s wife, Sunday Rowan. The hot air balloon crashed after striking a power line just after 7 a.m.

Matt was a native Texan, born in Bryan, and graduated in 2004 from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Chemistry. Two years later (2006) he received an M.S. in Forensic Science from the George Washington University. He joined UT Health San Antonio’s Pharmacology Program in Fall of 2006 and completed his doctoral degree in the lab of Dr. William Clarke and Dr. Kelly Berg.

During his doctoral studies, he received numerous awards including several outstanding poster awards and travel awards to Society for Neuroscience and ASPET, a Craniofacial Oral-biology Student Training in Academic Research (COSTAR) training fellowship, and was graduate student of the year in 2010. He had been a good community citizen serving as the student representative of the Pharmacology COGS, at large member of the steering committee of the San Antonio Neuroscience Alliance, and chair of the Pharmacology Graduate Student Symposium.

“It’s really not possible for me to overemphasize the contribution Matt made to our lab, both professionally and personally. He was the go-to guy for all the other members in the lab and he’s always willing to lend a helping hand. He had a great sense of humor and being the only other male in the lab at the time, he suffered mercilessly from the teasing from the women in the lab. He’ll be sorely missed,” Dr. Clarke said.

Dr. Clarke explained that as a scientist, he was greatly impressed with Matt’s work.

“Matt was a team player, the one everyone goes to if they need a hand; which he gladly provided. If he saw something that needs doing in the lab (like filling the liquid nitrogen tanks), he just did it,” Dr. Clarke said. “Matt was the quintessential graduate student, among the very best students I have known in my over 25 years, excelling in all dimensions that are associated with top scientists and human beings.”

After graduating from the Ph.D. program, Matt was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Nathan Jeske for two years. He then pursued a second postdoctoral position at the Brooke Army Medical Center’s Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio. He was recently been promoted to Chief of Clinical Trials for Burn and Trauma Research.

“Matt was an extremely supportive and contributory member of my lab. He spent much of his time as a post-doctoral fellow helping and educating others on the pharmacological principles and protocols he learned as a graduate student. Despite a modest publication record from his time in my research group, the impact of his time spent teaching others is still apparent in protocols that we run to this day,” said Dr. Nathan Jeske, associate professor and director of research in the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

The Department of Pharmacology plans to dedicate this year’s Pharmacology Graduate Student Symposium in his name.

"Matt was known to be an exemplary student in the Department of Pharmacology while he was completing his graduate work, and he continued to participate (and excel) in departmental activities as a postdoc, such as the annual Graduate Student Symposium, which is how I came to know him," said Elizabeth Fucich, Pharmacology Ph.D. graduate student. "This year, we are dedicating the symposium to Matt to honor his life as part of the department's family." 

The symposium will be held Friday, October 28th from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m at the La Quinta Medical Center. For more information, please contact Elizabeth at

First Photo: Uncredited, AP. Other photos provided by Dr. Clarke.

Additional Thoughts: 

“Matt Rowan was an incredibly talented pain scientist who was clearly gifted. The originality and productivity of his research were only matched only by an incredible demeanor. Matt had a great sense of humor, was always fully engaged, and enjoyed all aspects of life. Our community is lessened by his tragic death,” said Dr. Ken Hargreaves, professor & chair in the Department of Endodontics

“Matt Rowan was one of my first and dearest friends in graduate school. He was one of the first individuals to introduce me to the world of science, its excitement, and its beauty. Each day in lab, he welcomed me with a smile, a joke (or many), and a lending hand, and for this I will be eternally grateful. I will certainly treasure his mentorship, kindness, and generosity, but will miss our friendship the most. He truly invested in those he cared about; he made you feel as if you were the most important person in the room and that you could do anything as long as you were determined, confident, and a good listener. He consistently made an effort to keep our friendship outstanding, even when we both had graduated and moved on in our career paths. Some of my favorite memories of Matt, or homeboy, as I commonly referred to him as, involved us laughing until tears were rolling down our faces, playing softball together, as well as the many afternoons spent discussing science, politics, relationships, fashion, and the best coffee to purchase. Matt has been and will always be one of my biggest role models; he was persistent at work, dedicated to those he loved, and simply, a wonderful person to be around. Although the world has lost a man who could make anyone laugh or smile, those who knew him are all the more lucky and hopefully, will pass his positivity and humor onto others. Thanks for being one hell of a friend, Matt! Rest in peace.”---Raehannah Jamshidi, M.D./ Ph.D. student 

- “I had the privilege of meeting Matt at the start of our graduate program in 2006. Over the years, I learned of his strong scientific ability, his warm heart, and his witty sense of humor. Matt was always ready and willing to help out in any way he could and always made me laugh with our silly, mutual jokes. He was a great friend and will be truly missed.”---Michelle Baladi, GSBS alum, Pharmacology Ph.D. program  

-"Matt was a passionate student and teacher who was always eager to help his fellow graduate students. His ability to critically analyze and articulate complex mechanisms are what made him a great scientist and mentor. Matt was also an exceptional friend that I will remember fondly for his quick wit, sarcasm and infectious humor. His playfulness resulted in our daily banter, in which he didn't feel accomplished until he saw the vein pop in my forehead (as he put it). Following grad school, I was fortunate to work with him at the USAISR and was extremely proud of his recent promotion to Chief of Clinical Trials for Burn and Trauma Research. Matt was beyond excited about his new position and the impact he would have on this area of research. He will be greatly missed. Thank you Rowan for being a great lab mate, colleague, and most of all a friend!"  ---Capt. Elaine Por, GSBS alum, Pharmacology Ph.D. program 

- "I had the pleasure of supervising Matt while he did his dissertation research in our laboratory. In addition to serving as a mentor, we had a special relationship that extended beyond the lab. I would often tease Matt that he is the son that I never had, and would even introduce him to colleagues at scientific meetings as “this is my son, Matt." I will always remember Matt taking our daughters on roller coasters at Fiesta Texas, spending the day together at Disneyland and going with me to serotonin club dinners, even though his research had nothing to do with serotonin. “Matty” will always have a special place in my heart."---Dr. Kelly Berg, Associate Professor/Research, Department of Pharmacology 

-"I had the pleasure of working with Matt while he was working on his dissertation in our lab. Working with Matt was like hanging out with your little brother everyday. He annoyed me, he inspired me, he made me laugh until I cried, he got me in trouble, and he (sometimes) got me out of trouble. He was incredibly intelligent, sarcastic, sensitive, and most of all respectful. We spent a lot of time talking about everything under the sun, there was no subject off limits. He enriched my life in ways he’ll never know and I already miss his friendship. Rest in peace Matchoo. I will continue to dedicate Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” to you every November."---Teresa Chavera, Sr. Research Associate, Department of Pharmacology 

Jett Jones College Fund

The Department of Pharmacology is honoring Dr. Matt Rowan by establishing a 529 College Savings account to assist the future education of his step-son Jett Jones, whom he welcomed into his life when he married Jett’s mother, Sunday.

For those wishing to contribute to this account, there will be two options – by check/cash, or online

To contribute by check, please make the check payable to “Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan” and on the memo line put “Jett Jones account”

Checks can be sent to:

Department of Pharmacology, MC 7764
ATTN: Sandra Westerman
University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio
7703 Floyd Curl Drive
San Antonio, TX 78229-3900

To contribute online:

Please go to

Enter code Z9V-P6N

This will direct your contribution to Jett Jones account. You will receive confirmation both on screen and by e-mail

Please contact for more information. 

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