Adjunct Associate Professor
Peter Matt (b. 1949) couldn’t decide what he wanted to be when he grew up. For many years, he thought he would become a musician but finally determined that he didn’t have the necessary singular focus. Chronic stage fright was also an influence. Having married an Italian woman and become enamored of her country, he decided to start a business as a wine importer, specializing in Italian wine. He was involved in that business from 1978 to 2012. (That makes 34 years.)
Always an avid and eclectic reader, Peter got interested in geology through the essays on the subject by John McPhee. This led to some important realizations. One was that there is a very limited selection of popular literature about geology. The other was that the specialized literature is impossible to read without sufficient academic background. These facts led Peter to pursue his interest as a part-time, “non-traditional” student in 2004, when he enrolled as a non-matriculated undergraduate at Brooklyn College. After his first course, Mineralogy, his eventual mentor and then department chair, Wayne Powell, encouraged Peter to enroll as a graduate student. Peter pursued a Masters degree at Brooklyn, taking one course per semester while continuing his work in the wine business. The degree program required a research project, and on advice of his mentor, Peter began working on mapping, sampling and analyzing rocks from a historic mining district in northwestern New Jersey. Peter earned his Master of Science degree in 2013, by which time he had made two more important decisions. One was to abandon the wine business completely, the other was to enroll in a doctoral program at the CUNY Graduate Center. Having worked part-time as an adjunct starting in 2009, Peter thought that a PhD might give him a pathway to a new career in teaching.
Peter’s PhD research addressed the question of what enabled large bodies of zinc ore at the giant Balmat, NY deposit to travel as much as 1 kilometer deep underground during metamorphism. Metamorphism refers to the behavior of rocks and minerals under conditions of elevated temperature and pressure. The research produced the conclusion that partial melting must have played a role in the unusual behavior of this particular deposit. With the publication of two papers on the topic and approval of his thesis, Peter received his PhD in 2019.
Peter has taught a variety of Earth science courses, both introductory and upper level, at Brooklyn College, Hunter College and Pratt Institute where he is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the department of Math and Science (School of Liberal Arts and Sciences). This experience has helped Peter understand the needs of a diverse student body, with a great variety of interests. It has been a continuing objective and challenge to help these students understand that they have an intimate connection with and influence on our planet. The better they can appreciate how our planet functions as an environmental system, the better equipped they will be to act as good stewards.
Peter and his wife of 50 years, Rosella Girardi, have two daughters, Elena (41) and Serena (37). Elena lives in Brooklyn and works in the wine importing business. Serena is a hydrologist with the US Geological Survey in Montpelier, VT. Peter is proud that these apples seem not to have fallen far from the tree. Elena has a son, Zeno (5), Peter’s favorite (and only) grandson. Zeno and his Mom are in the photo below, shot in April, 2023.
PhD, Earth and Environmental Science, The Graduate Center at CUNY, 2019;
MS, Geology, Brooklyn College, 2013;
BMus, University of Hartford, 1977