According to the saying, “It’s not brain surgery.” But for Morgan Burton, that’s the goal.
Morgan Burton was attracted to Wilkes University’s combination of big university opportunities and small-campus feel, but the chance to major in neuroscience was the final piece of the puzzle.
Burton grew up in Jamaica with a commitment to education inspired by her mother, and a dream of a career in medicine. “I always knew I wanted to be a doctor,” says Burton. “But I didn’t know what type.”
When Burton was in fifth grade, her grandmother gave her a copy of the book Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. After reading about the surgeon’s successful separation of conjoined twins, Burton set her sights on neurosurgery.
Five years later, Burton moved from Jamaica to East Stroudsburg, Pa. “I was always the new kid,” she says of her high school years. Now she feels the experience helps her to be a better resident assistant to first-year students adjusting to college life at Wilkes. “I feel like I can relate to them more on a personal level,” she says. “I’m more well-seasoned. I already went through the big move once.”
The next big move the sophomore has planned is medical school. Until then, she’s gaining valuable hands-on research experience on a lab team led by her mentor, Tyisha Williams, assistant professor of biology.
Burton, a neuroscience and psychology double major with minors in biology and chemistry, got involved in the research her freshman year. The project studies how certain metabolic genes, environmental toxins and pharmacological drugs impact brain development.
Williams says students drive every aspect of the research. “I’m just there to guide. They’re truly the captains of the ship, from animal care to molecular analysis.”
Williams pushes her students to succeed, giving them plenty of opportunity and support. “I see so much in them, so much potential. I try to build confidence.”
Burton agrees. “She’s like my mom. She doesn’t accept us putting ourselves down. She always has something encouraging to say.”
Burton carries the confidence gained through her lab work to other activities, including the awarding-winning E-mentor program, which pairs incoming Wilkes freshmen with upperclassmen. She is also active in the Multicultural Student Coalition, Neuroscience Club, Programming Board and a day camp for girls called Women Empowered By Science (WEBS). In her rare moments of free time, she watches “Grey’s Anatomy.” Though she knows it’s romanticized for TV, Burton says, “this is what I’m going to have to go through.”