Matt Cicanese '12 Reveals the Wonders of Science Through His Lens
FSC graduate Matt Cicanese's nature documentary brings important scientific issues to light in a simple, creative fashion. The video explores water pollution and its effect on our ecosystems, and also what we are doing locally to fight the negative impacts of pollution.
Matt Cicanese ’12
By Laura Hackett
Art and field research are not two fields that typically pair together, but Florida Southern graduate Matt Cicanese ’12 makes them work in a unique and creative way.
“Science has fascinated me and fueled my thirst for exploration for as long as I can remember,” said Cicanese.
As a kid, he remembers poring over his father’s National Geographic collection and plastering nature photography “tear-outs” on every free inch of wall space. He was a Boy Scout and would go on daily nature walks through his neighborhood. When he was 14, he got his first camera.
“From that moment, I was hooked. I realized how much more I could see and express from behind a lens, and from then on, my camera never left my side.”
By the end of high school, Cicanese invested in a nicer camera, and started delving into the world of photography. At Florida Southern, he took his first formal photography classes. At the end of his freshman year, he was offered the chance to study advanced photography in Italy, on a trip hosted by Professor Eric Blackmore from the Art Department.
“Professor Blackmore pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me to explore my creativity,” Cicanese said. When he returned from Italy, he published his first photographic collection, a 300-page book and an exhibit featured in Florida Southern’s Melvin Art Gallery.
Cicanese was also heavily involved in the Biology Department at Florida Southern. He was the Vice President of Florida Southern’s chapter of the biological honor society, Beta Beta Beta. He sought out several internship opportunities, such as spending a summer monitoring endangered red cockaded woodpeckers in Withalcoochee State Park.
“I was really drawn in by the field study opportunities at Florida Southern. At least once a week, we would go out and do research,” Cicanese said of his undergrad experience. “The experience was invaluable, especially compared to sitting in a lecture hall like normal Bio students have to do.”
Cicanese graduated from Florida Southern with an Environmental Science degree, minoring in Graphic Design and Interpersonal Communication.
“Normally, staff within a certain major would discourage having a minor in two other fields, because it would detract from their own department. But the professors at Florida Southern were so helpful and supportive every step of the way through.”
Cicanese had a particularly close connection with his advisor, Dr. Eric Kjellmark. Being a Duke alumnus himself, Kjellmark helped Cicanese forge a connection with Dr. François Lutzoni, a lichenologist at Duke University.
Cicanese drove up during spring break to meet with Lutzoni, and convinced him to take Cicanese on as a student intern for the summer.
As an intern, Cicanese worked on taking detailed photographs of the lichen collection at Duke to create a digital archive of the species, making the collection much more accessible to scientists around the world. After this experience, however, he decided that he was more interested in video production and photography than lichenology.
“I want to share the beauty of the natural world with others in order to raise awareness about the importance of conservation, as well as environmental issues,” he said. Cicanese plans on attending Duke's Master of Fine Arts program in Experimental and Documentary Arts this coming fall, where he will unite the disciplines of the arts and the sciences through documentary filmmaking.