Morgan Alford was a semi-finalist in the 2021 Three Minute Thesis competition, with her presentation, "The secret life of sputum: bacterial infections of cystic fibrosis airways."
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I decided to pursue a graduate degree to develop technical and philosophical skills that would prime me for a successful career in science. Further, I was exposed to various biological phenomena through my undergraduate studies that I wanted to learn more about in an independent fashion.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
I decided to study at the University of British Columbia because it is located near my hometown and family. The fact that it is among the most prestigious research institutes in Canada was an additional attraction.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
Faculty and staff that populate my department have received great recognition for their efforts toward science communication and mentorship beyond their achievements in research. I specifically sought after my program to learn how to become a well-rounded researcher and have access to resources offered through affiliates such as the Centre for Blood Research.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The best surprise about the University of British Columbia was how friendly the community of stakeholders are. I was worried about being lonely since the campus is geographically large and highly populated, which usually makes for transactional relationships among colleagues.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I enjoy the opportunities I have to engage the community and empower others in academia. I am heavily involved in science outreach through affiliation with the national organization Let's Talk Science as well as Science Slam and Soapbox Science. Enlightening those who do not consider themselves literate in science is rewarding, particularly when youth are inspired to pursue scientific careers as a result of my endeavours.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
I think my biggest challenge will be narrowing my interests in order to contribute something meaningful to the field I enter. I am fascinated by many things that don't necessarily relate to each other, which can spread me thin and hinder my progress on any one project at a time.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
My supervisory committee is constantly reminding me to focus my energy on one project at a time in order to complete the project to the best of my ability. Further, resources provided allow me to work toward my goals outside academia while emphasizing the importance of prioritizing my studies.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
I grew up in a household where stereotypes and gender biases didn't exist. I was encouraged to tinker with toy cars alongside my four brothers and explore whatever areas genuinely interested me or ignited my curiosity. Further, I gained a significant amount of independence at a very young age. All of which contributed to my tenacity as a young researcher and empowered me to speak out against the stark attrition of women in science.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I like to do many things for fun! I am a firm believer that fun can be made under any circumstances, but my usual activities for fun include hiking and skiing. I would like to do other things when I have more time, such as pen a novel or learn to play an instrument.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
I would suggest that new graduate students seek out a supportive community within their field. Not only will these people provide mentorship and guidance relevant to the completion of your degree, but also friendships and memories that will transcend your experience as a graduate student.