Born and raised in the small town of Hamilton, Montana, Morgan’s interest in infectious disease research began immediately after graduating high-school when she worked as a summer intern at Rocky Mountain Labs (a satellite lab of NIAID/NIH fortuitously located in Hamilton). At RML, Morgan worked in Dr. Harlan Caldwell’s Chlamydia pathogenesis lab. She loved the lab and subsequently arranged to be a student lab employee at Princeton University in Dr. Lynn Enquist’s alpha herpesvirus lab. Morgan remained in the Enquist lab all throughout college and ultimately completed her senior thesis there. Her interest in medicine was further developed when she spent a semester studying at the University of Cape Town and gained clinical exposure volunteering at student-run clinics for township residents. She graduated from Princeton in ’07 with a degree in Molecular Biology. During college, Morgan also spent 4 consecutive summers working in the Caldwell lab, and after college she moved back home to Montana to work for 2 full years in the Caldwell lab under a NIH Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award. During that time, she worked on several projects including: development of an attenuated trachoma vaccine, characterization of bacterial genetic changes and host humoral immune evolution in reactivating trachoma infection, and targeted genetic manipulation of Chlamydia. Her postbac experience researching trachoma with Dr. Caldwell was transformative, solidifying her desire to become a physician scientist and focus on tropical diseases. To further gain exposure to public health and policy issues beyond the lab, Morgan accepted a Princeton in Africa Fellowship and deferred for one year to work at the international NGO “mothers2mothers” based in Cape Town, South Africa. m2m trains and places women in clinics to work as peer educators for Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, and Morgan worked on projects all over South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Malawi.
Since returning to UNC, Morgan completed the first two years of medical training and joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology where she is a graduate student working jointly with Dr. Carla Cerami and Dr. Steven Meshnick on P. falciparum related projects. Her dissertation work involves studying the molecular mechanisms dictating the relationship between iron deficiency anemia and reduced malaria susceptibility, as well as the increased risk of malaria infection associated with iron supplementation, in effort to understand how best to conduct safe iron supplementation campaigns in malaria endemic areas. Since May 2015, Morgan’s research has transitioned to be mostly based at a rural laboratory field site operated by the UK’s Medical Research Council in Keneba, The Gambia. In Keneba, Morgan is part of Dr. Cerami’s research team conducing malaria safety analyses and further molecular research regarding the relationship between malaria susceptibility and the host iron status, as part of a large scale iron supplementation clinical trial being run from Keneba. Aside from being in the lab, Morgan spends time playing recreational soccer, taking care of her dog, going on adventures with her husband, trying her best to become an honorary Gambian, and enjoying the outdoors as much as possible.