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Monday, March 20, 2023

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Megan Morris was selected as a recipient of the President’s Award at this year's Student Research Symposium. Megan Morris was selected as a recipient of the President’s Award at this year's Student Research Symposium.

Megan Morris’ Aztec Experience

This Aztec is a Ph.D. student in the joint doctoral program in ecology.
By SDSU News Team

Name: Megan Morris
Major: Ph.D. student in the joint doctoral program in ecology
Campus affiliations: Graduate Student Association, Marine Ecology Biology Student Association, Delta Epsilon Iota Academic Honor Society

1. Why did you choose to attend San Diego State University?

I’m currently a Ph.D. student, but I also attended SDSU for my undergraduate studies. When I was applying to college as a high school senior, I thought I wanted to become a nurse practitioner, so I targeted universities with nationally-ranked nursing programs. Of all the universities I was accepted to, I knew that SDSU was my top choice just by my reaction and excitement when I opened my acceptance letter.

2. What inspired you to apply for the joint doctoral program in ecology?

It’s so hard to pick one defining moment that motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology, but I think it resulted from the culmination of many experiences. From taking a wide array of classes and working as a research assistant in a few different labs during my undergraduate career, I discovered along the way that I had a passion for ecology.

3. What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

I’m such a perfectionist and strive for an unreasonable level of excellence in every aspect of my studies. From a young age, my mom has told me that sometimes getting an ‘A’ is not the most important accomplishment. What I think she was trying to convey is that sometimes, allocating time and energy into other experiences can be far more rewarding in the big picture.

4. Which SDSU faculty or staff member has been the most influential throughout your SDSU journey?

My current advisor, Elizabeth Dinsdale, has been incredibly influential to my academic and research success at SDSU. During the last semester of my undergraduate career, I took her Ecological Metagenomics course and was fascinated with the research that her lab was doing in using DNA sequencing technology to study microbial ecology. Over the past four years that I’ve studied in Dr. Dinsdale’s lab, she has made me a better researcher in pushing me out of my comfort zone, teaching me new techniques and exposing me to so many opportunities.

5. What does student success mean to you?

Student success means being a well-rounded student from the combination of academic and extra-curricular programs. SDSU students are offered so many opportunities outside of the traditional classroom, and this translates into greater career success post-graduation.

6. What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

The experience at SDSU which has changed my life the most was enrolling in Dinsdale’s Ecological Metagenomics course. At the time, I was in my last semester of my undergraduate studies and I still had not decided what I wanted to do after graduation. In one semester, I learned how to process environmental microbial samples, sequence the DNA, and do some simple bioinformatics analysis with the results. Exploring these techniques inspired me to pursue graduate studies, and now I use these techniques in my own Ph.D. research and teach them to other students.

7. What has been your proudest achievement while at SDSU?

Every year, I participate in SDSU’s Student Research Symposium and present results from my graduate research. At this year’s SRS, I was selected as one of the 10 recipients of the President’s Award for my oral presentation. I love sharing my research with my peers, and I’m looking forward to representing SDSU at the annual California State University Student Research Competition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo next month.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I will have my Ph.D. in ecology, and I hope to continue doing hands-on research to answer important ecological questions. What I love most about research is sharing my knowledge with others and mentoring early-career students with an enthusiasm for scientific research. I hope to be able to apply these skills in my future career.

9. What’s your favorite thing about being an Aztec?

I love being an Aztec for Life! From the prestigious academic programs that SDSU offers to the sense of community and camaraderie on campus, everywhere you turn there is excitement and opportunity to be had. I’ve had so many positive experiences associated with SDSU, and I think I’ll really miss Aztec life after graduation.