Profiles / Rising S.T.E.M. Stars

Morgan Price

Engineering, University of Iowa

“Morgan, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. I have faith in you.”

That’s a statement I’ve frequently heard throughout my life. My parents always taught me to strive to do my best; never apologize for my success, but more importantly to be a strong black woman every day of my life. To say that my parents and family are the epitome of support is the understatement of the century. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without the unyielding love and support that surrounds me daily. I am truly blessed.

On maintaining balance

I was always a perfectionist. I had to have everything done before it was due. I revised at least four times and I checked and re-checked my work constantly. While it is crucial to be precise and diligent, that type of over-critical work creates a sense of pressure that can be crippling at times. I always tell younger students to strive for your best but also learn to keep balance in your life.

For example, I have studied piano since the age of 6. I find that I need to play the piano at least twice a week in order for me to keep my sanity. Therefore I make a conscious effort to make time for that in my schedule. Keeping bits of your true self and integrating that into a rigorous academic life will have an exponential impact for the better.

On getting involved

I was taught to always work hard but, more importantly, to work smart. I constantly crave new information, and my tendency toward tenacity drives me to be proactive. Being a “go getter” aids immensely in my success because I have confidence in my abilities and my opinions. More, I have the confidence to network with professionals in my field which is the true key to success.

This may sound a bit cliché, but I have always been motivated by the desire to aid in the betterment of others, and the community at large. At a young age, I could always be found patching the knee of a companion or tending to a friend in need. As I got older, my attention turned more to public health, medicine and my role in pioneering new and innovative ideas.

On choosing a college

When choosing schools, I first applied to schools with highly ranked programs in the field I intended to pursue. That way, I knew that if accepted, I would be among the best and brightest. It didn’t matter as much which school I decided to attend. I expected to be challenged, pushed and ultimately molded [academically] into a better version of myself.

I visited several campuses before making a final choice on where I would attend school. I chose to attend the University of Iowa because it just felt right. It exceeded my expectations. Ironically, Iowa was the last school on my list because it was my father’s alma mater and I wanted to “pave my own way,” so to speak. But once we visited the campus with its impeccable engineering facilities and its highly- respected, top-rated hospital, I felt the passion my father had for the Hawkeyes and I knew that I would follow that abiding legacy.

The people were kind and accepting, accommodating and interesting. The campus was breathtaking, and the engineering facilities paired with the hospital were top notch. I knew the moment I stepped onto campus that I could not envision myself anywhere else. As unscientific as it may be, my decision of where to attend college was based on a gut reaction.

On pursuing a S.T.E.M. degree

I always enjoyed math and the sciences. I knew that I was good at solving problems and remaining calm under pressure. I always strived for the best but I never fathomed that all of those skills could be morphed into an actual career. It was not until I met with an advisor in the Engineering Department at another university I was considering attending, that I found my calling. Call it luck or divine intervention but after that day I was hooked on all things engineering. The fact that I could use skills that I enjoyed in everyday life, like problem solving, and pair them with my passion for science, was not only enthralling but earth shatteringly inspiring. Since that day, I have never looked back.

As an African American female in the S.T.E.M. field, I certainly recognize that we are under-represented. That said, my advice for African American women pursuing a S.T.E.M. career would be this: never allow yourself to feel alone or isolated. If you look at yourself first as a black female, you put yourself at a distinct disadvantage. On the other hand, if you look at yourself as an intelligent scientist, an innovative mathematician, a clever engineer or extremely suave technologist, you keep yourself from being categorized by a social norm, and rather choose to classify yourself by your professional ability. Are you a female? Yes. Are you African American? Yes. Does that define your capabilities, raw talents or potential? No. So don’t allow it to do so.

On engineering

The vast use of technology is the most fascinating aspect of my field. Whether a few states or a few continents away, the fact that information can be so easily shared is inspiring. The use of technology in the S.T.E.M. field will undoubtedly redefine how we look at the world.

I am currently working on two research projects. First, I am compiling a YouTube database of All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) accidents. The footage is then analyzed using engineering software to predict the slope, type of terrain and conditions most likely to cause ATV crashes. This issue is of particular significance/importance in rural Iowa. Second, I am participating in research pertaining to traumatic brain injury. Our work is directed at discovering a potential drug regiment and after care protocol to lessen the effects of trauma to the brain, reduce inflammation and lessen cell death to affected areas.

Best Advice

You do not need to be the most brilliant, the most talented or some kind of a genius to have success. If you pair persistence, with passion and hard work you can achieve any goal you set out to accomplish.

My Mentors and Why

My mentor for research is Dr. Gerene Denning. She was one of the creators of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program at the University of Iowa, as well as being an innovative research scientist. Dr. Denning is my mentor for many reasons but the most important reason is that she supports women from all backgrounds who are under-represented in the S.T.E.M. fields.

Quotes I Live By

“To whomever much is given, of him shall much be required.”

Invent One Thing

I have always been drawn to burn victims. I originally wanted to be a tissue engineer. For that reason I would love to invent a type of drug-releasing synthetic skin that would minimize vulnerability to infection and eliminate severe scarring.

Book Currently Reading

I usually focus on reading papers that pertain to my research. For example, I just finished reading “Risk Factors and Musculoskeletal Injuries Associated with All-Terrain Vehicle Accidents” (Paul Balthrop, John Nyland and Craig Roberts).