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Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences speaker to urge pursuit of truth

PhD candidate Kathleen Morrill has received numerous accolades during her time at UMass Chan Medical School, from the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award to the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Mid-Thesis Research, but she is particularly thrilled to be chosen as the class speaker for the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Class of 2023.

Published in Science and covered by The Washington Post among other outlets, Morrill’s research on the behavioral genomics of domestic dogs has furthered the understanding of comparative genetics in relation to human health and psychiatric disorders and suggests that a dog’s breed alone is not a reliable predictor of personality and behavior traits. Most recently, Morrill investigated the genetic history of the renowned sled dog Balto, who delivered life-saving diphtheria serum to the children of Nome, Alaska, in 1925.

Morrill is a senior computational scientist in genome analysis for Colossal Biosciences and a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed during UMass Chan Student Health physical examination in 2020.

“I almost considered not coming in for that physical because it was scheduled in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Morrill, who is in remission. “I didn't need chemotherapy because of genomic tests on the tumor. I study genetics, so I knew most of the genes my doctors were looking for.”

Morrill’s fondest memories at UMass Chan include community outreach projects such as the Brain Bee and painting underwater-themed panels for the pediatric ward. In her speech on June 4, she plans to talk about how scientific training has readied her class to “pursue the truth in an era of information overload.”