The Home Page of P. Matthew Joyner

Many people are fascinated with the beauty and mystery of nature. From the vastness of space to the inconceivable smallness of atoms, nature provides an endless source of wonder to humans. As a scientist I have devoted myself to seeking a greater understanding of the amazing world that surrounds us. In particular I am interested in discovering more about the chemical processes that provide the foundation for much of the biological processes in our natural world. On this page you will find information about my ongoing research as well as information about the classes I teach at Pepperdine University.


Natural products are chemical compounds that are produced by an organism in order to augment its interactions with its environment. These compounds may be used for an array of purposes by an organism, such as reducing competition from neighboring life forms or communicating with other organisms. The inter-organism interactions that are governed by natural products can provide the foundation for understanding many important ecological systems in nature. One fascinating example is a tobacco plant that emits a specific chemical signal when it is attacked by caterpillars. This chemical attracts another type of insect which preys on the caterpillar, eliminating the threat to the plant. Another important feature of natural products is their usefulness in the development of new therapeutic drugs. Due to the naturally occurring biological functions of these compounds, natural products have traditionally been an exceedingly valuable source of new drugs. Many of the great discoveries in medicine in the past few decades have come from natural products, including antibiotics such as penicillin G and cancer treatments such as paclitaxel (also known as Taxol®).
       Natural products chemistry provides a rich environment for undergraduate research due to its low barrier of entry for students and the broad applicability of this field to interesting biological phenomena and problems. I am very intersted in chemical ecology and in the application of natural product chemistry to drug discovery. There are currently two project that are being pursued in my research group. The goal of the first project is to identify specific chemical components of plants that have a history of medicinal use among local native populations in Southern California. The goal the second project is to characterize specific chemical processes that are used by plants to enhance their competitive advantage by inhibiting the germination of seeds of other plants. Both of these projects are ongoing and I have several undergraduate students actively engaged in this research.


Learning is my priority as a teacher. Therefore, in my classes I always endeavor to make sure that my students are really learning the material rather than simply regurgitating information consumed by rote memorization. I enjoy experimenting with new teaching methods and I try to incorporate educational methodologies both old and new into my classrooms. You can see some of my recent teaching experiments on my wiki. I teach biochemistry, organic chemistry and general chemistry classes and in every class I work hard to help my students realize that the purpose of education should be learning, not achievement.

About me

As a professor at Pepperdine University, I have the great privilege to combine my love for science and research with the daily opportunity to share my interests with students and colleagues. I attended Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, Texas as an undergraduate and I earned Bachelor of Science degrees in both chemistry and mathematics. As an undergraduate at Lubbock Christian I had the great opportunity to conduct research with Dr. Julie Marshall in the area of peanut flavor chemistry. That experience opened my eyes to the world of scientific research and I have never been the same since then. From there I moved to the University of Oklahoma, where I earned a Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry under the direction of Dr. Robert Cichewicz. In his lab I learned how to study small organic molecules in biological systems as well as how to think and communicate as a scientist. In 2011 I began working at Pepperdine University as an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and I can imagine few places more conducive to learning as an educator and a scientist. If you would like to contact me, you can find my contact information here.