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Veteran Defends Dissertation on 30-Year Anniversary of Service in Persian Gulf War

By Sarah True

Published on May 6, 2021

Matt BahrGrowing up in a family of engineers, Matt Bahr PhD (Pharmaceutics) was always interested in a career in the sciences. After joining and serving in the Marines at 19, Dr. Bahr found his way into a career in pharmaceutical manufacturing as a plant engineer at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

For Dr. Bahr, he found that a doctoral degree program in pharmaceutics was beneficial to further his career and interests, but it was when he realized that he would defend his PhD dissertation on the 30-year anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, where he engaged in combat as a Marine in Kuwait, that he’d seen how far he’d come.

“There are many things in my life that I’m proud of,” said Dr. Bahr, “but two very significant accomplishments are my service in the Marines and the completion of my PhD, so it was very meaningful to see these two events uniquely connected.”

Dr. Bahr joined the Marines after attending one year of college, seeking discipline and focus. Years later he said it is those traits that helped give him the confidence to go back to school and earn a PhD.

Matt BahrAfter earning a mechanical engineering degree from Drexel University, Dr. Bahr began working in the pharmaceutical industry. As an oral solid dosage pilot plant engineer, he found himself inspired by his colleagues who worked in drug formulation. This led him to pursue a part-time master’s degree in pharmaceutical manufacturing at Stevens Institute of Technology. There, his advisor encouraged him to enroll in a doctorate program.

“University of the Sciences was a great option for me, because it is one of very few schools offering a part-time graduate program in pharmaceutics which aligned with precisely where my research interests were, and the campus was fairly close to the GlaxoSmithKline facility where I was working,” said Dr. Bahr. He noted that many of his colleagues at GlaxoSmithKline were also part-time PhD students at USciences. “I knew that there was already a strong relationship between the University and GSK, which continues to this day.”

Matt BahrDr. Bahr credits Steven Neau, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Pharmaceutics, Kamal Jonnalagadda, director of the Pharmaceutics Graduate Program, and GSK advisor Gossett Campbell with helping him with his doctorate studies.

Dr. Bahr has worked as a research scientist at GlaxoSmithKline for the past seven years and hopes to continue his work in the lab now that he has completed his doctorate studies. He and his wife Stephanie are also raising two sons, one of whom will begin his undergraduate studies in chemical engineering in the fall. Dr. Bahr hopes to have an impact on the scientific research that happens at GSK and hopes to act as a mentor for the next generation of scientists.

As far as advice for future students, Dr. Bahr encourages them to never feel alone in their journeys.

“No matter who you are, or where you are in life, surround yourself with people that you care about and who care about you,” he said. “While you will experience many unexpected challenges and setbacks during your education, you do not have to face them alone.  When you experience the joys, and there will be many, don’t forget the people who helped you succeed.  Embrace the culture and diversity of your campus experience and recognize that not all of the lessons that you learn in college will come from the pages of a textbook.”

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