The personal connections and support at St. Kate's helped Morgan decide that this was the place for her. "My mother was a first-generation college student, and she wanted me to go where I could excel. St. Kate’s was one of five universities I applied to. The conversations I had with St. Kate’s biology faculty at an information session won me over. The professors were articulate and encouraging, and they spoke to me as an adult with valuable insights."
When it came to deciding on an area of study, she was immediately "drawn to science because it’s about how things work. I want to make a difference in people’s lives. Physical therapy will allow me to work with patients one-on-one and see them progress through treatment. Last semester, I had the chance to shadow a physical therapist in the intensive care unit at Hennepin County Medical Center, and this experience solidified my interest in the field. I learned about trauma and how multiple interacting diagnoses influence treatment strategies."
Morgan was interested in pursuing research, so she got started right away. "I approached my biology professor Cindy Norton about my options. She suggested studying Helisoma trivolvis (a freshwater snail). After doing the necessary literature research and collaborating on a thesis statement, we dove into the fun part — spending time in the lab!"
During the research, she learned not only about the particular organism they were working with, but also essential laboratory skills. "Our goal was to study the sperm precedence of the snail so we — as a society — can better understand how they reproduce and contribute to freshwater ecosystems. These snails are aquatic and hermaphroditic, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs. Each snail can produce one to 12 egg masses a week, and each egg mass can result in one to 30 baby snails. We had a sample size of 53 snails. I handled a lot of snails while working side-by-side with Cindy each week. And this did wonders for my skills using a microscope. I was fairly familiar with snails before our research project. We studied them in a biology class my first year at St. Kate’s — but I had never actually held one."
"Our research will be published soon, and I’ll be second author. This is an achievement I can put on my résumé forever."
When it came to finding a mentor to work with and build a relationship with, she described the experience as "really easy." "My biology professors are accessible by email and extremely open to discussing academic or career opportunities I should pursue."