Dr. Matthew Todd Griffin
(Class of 1991)
(11/1/2014) Dr. Todd Griffin entered Tabernacle in 1987 as a freshman and graduated in 1991 as the valedictorian of his class.
Upon graduation, Todd attended Wingate University where he pursued a double major in chemistry and mathematics. In addition to receiving the Freshman Chemistry Award, he was also awarded the Outstanding Chemistry Award his senior year. He was also a two-time DuPont Summer Research Scholar. Additionally, he worked as an intern at CEM Corporation during his sophomore, junior, and senior years at Wingate. Todd was named to the dean’s and president’s lists numerous times.
At CEM Corporation, in the most general terms, Todd was responsible for testing and developing new products. “My boss told me that my job was to ‘break it’ so they could find the weaknesses and fix them prior to the new product launch.” The particular new product was a new way to prepare samples for analysis. The product used microwave energy to speed up the sample preparation. Usually taking several hours, the new product could achieve similar results in a fraction of that time. “For example, we would test for trace (very small) levels of contaminates in plant leaves. The problem was like ‘looking for a needle in a haystack.’ We were looking for parts-per-million (ppm) of these contaminates. That’s like finding one car in bumper-to-bumper traffic from Cleveland to San Francisco. We also analyzed food products to determine the total nitrogen content which can be used to estimate the amount of protein in food.”
After earning his double major, Todd had a passion for problem solving and analytical methodology which prompted him to start thinking about graduate school. “All my bosses in industry had PhDs and greatly encouraged me to pursue graduate school. I also was very interested in working on a wide range of problems and not having to perform the same tasks every day. With most science degrees, bachelor level employees are the heart and sole of day-to-day lab work. However, I have too much natural curiosity to work in most labs, so graduate school seemed a great place to let my curiosity play. My Wingate professors (all PhDs) also advised me to pursue graduate school.”
In his quest for the right graduate school, Todd states, “I started application to graduate school fairly early: requesting information, researching schools, programs, and professors. I applied to most of the top ten schools in Analytical Chemistry and was very fortunate to be recruited to visit a number of these top schools. I made life-long friends during this time because it seemed the schools recruited the same group of students. It was the extremely enjoyable, and I found myself humbled by this opportunity. I thank God for aligning my path to allow me to experience this time in my life.”
Todd accepted an offer from Indiana University (Bloomington, IN). Their strong Analytical Department and world-class facilities were very attractive. He was able to move to the University a few months early because the Analytical Department offered him a summer teaching position. “This was a blessing as I came from a small undergraduate with fewer than 2,000 students, to a large state school with over 36,000 students. Just getting around campus was challenging at first. I majored in Analytical Chemistry with a minor in Physical Chemistry. My research was focused on the development of new tools for the emerging field of proteomics. Proteomics is the study of proteins. Our tools (called Mass Spectrometers) were trying to help researchers understand composition and structure of proteins (often referred to as the protein sequence). The end result is a tool that can be used in many areas of pharmaceutical research. I completed my Masters of Science (ABD) in 2000.”
Todd later completed a Doctor of Science degree from Atlantic International University (non-research degree) as well as a completing numerous other graduate courses in Nuclear Engineering, Optical and Material Science. “The most challenging part of graduate school for me was balancing family, school, and research. There were very few Christians pursuing advanced science degrees which makes fellowship difficult. My advice to anyone pursuing graduate school is make sure you have a strong support structure of Christians to encourage you and who will fellowship with you on a regular basis to recharge. You will get plenty of opportunities to give an answer for hope that is in you and witness to people who may never think twice about where they will spend eternity.”
After completing his MS in Chemistry, Todd was hired through a program the US Navy called “The Millennial Hires,” an effort to shore up the aging technical competency. This program gave new technical hires an opportunity to work alongside seasoned technicians and take classes to quickly advance their careers. “I enjoyed working on the Navy’s 20-year strategic vision (called project Navy 20/20). While I had no substantive input, it was an incredible opportunity to learn how a large organization works, and I was able to witness the process first hand.” While participating in these activities, Todd’s primary job was in the field of detecting threats (weapons of mass destruction). His expertise was in instrumentation that could detect small levels of chemical warfare, biological warfare, and explosives. His job consisted of research and development, acquisition management, and in-service engineering.
In 2004, he was hired by General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products when they opened a detection center of excellence in Charlotte, NC. He started as a Senior Principal Research Scientist and was promoted to Director of Research and Development. In 2011, Chemring Group, plc acquired the detection business from General Dynamics. As part of the management team of the new Chemring company, Todd was elevated to the position of Director of Research & Engineering. As a senior staff member, he was assigned to work and lead projects including strategic planning, capital programs, special programs, and mergers and acquisition.
Todd’s current research interest is in field portable instrumentation. “Simply stated, I’m trying to invent a Tricorder like the one Dr. Spock used on Star Trek, something the size of a smart phone that can detect small traces of chemical or biological matter. It could have applications including disease management and diagnostics. Scientists are making great strides at making tiny instruments that can screen for tuberculosis or detect cancer via breath analysis. Of course, there are other areas including process analytical (manufacturing), environmental, and security that could benefit from a wide range of these detectors. My particular research utilizes ion mobility spectrometry, laser based spectroscopies, and mass spectrometry.” To this end, Todd has several patents dealing with instrumentation for this type of detection. The following are two of his patents:
- Method and System for Field Calibrating an Ion Mobility Spectrometer or Other Trace Vapor Detection Instrument - United States US 7,751,999 B1
- Inlet Sampling Method and Device - United States US2011/0303024
Todd enjoys teaching. “I first taught when I was at Wingate University. I was a peer tutor and found it very rewarding. It also made me a better student and reinforced what I did know.” Todd has taught at two community colleges (Ivy Technical and York Technical) while working in government and industry. However, in 2012 he decided to take a break from industry and seize an opportunity to return to his alma mater, Wingate University, as a visiting instructor of Chemistry and Physics. “My daughter was in her senior year of high school, and I really enjoyed being able to spend more time with her during that special time. It also gave me a chance to give back to the students. I love to encourage them to dream big, develop a life-long learning lifestyle, and put their trust in the Lord.”
His daughter, Veronica, has chosen Wingate University to pursue her undergraduate degree in Chemistry. “I can honestly say I had no hand in this. I truly feel that God has orchestrated all aspects of my life to be here at this time. I accepted a full-time faculty and senior staff position as Laboratory Manager and Safety Officer with Wingate University. I get to continue to give back to the faculty and staff on whose shoulders I stand and have a direct impact on current students. These young folks have aspirations of being pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and scientists. I hope to continue to help them towards their goals.”
Todd enjoys life with his wife, Christine; daughter, Veronica; two step-sons, Christopher, Peter and Dalmau; one step-daughter, Leoni Dalmau; and two grandchildren, Azalea Garcia and Zoey Dalmau.