Graduate Student Teaching Award: Morgan Chaney
Please give a short overview of your research, scholarship or creative successes.
My research interests generally fall into two buckets. My primary research focus has to do with the evolutionary genetics of primates, and I especially care about how genes involved in digestive or metabolic processes have adapted to different species' diets. For example, the species I'm studying for my PhD is the golden bamboo lemur of Madagascar, and this species is famous for consuming up to 50x the amount cyanide that it should take to kill an animal of their body size! We're trying to pinpoint groups of genes in this species' genome that have evolved in its lineage compared to closely related lemurs that don't rely on such poisonous foods. My second research focus has to do with primate anatomy, and I have a special concern for human origins and how our own bizarre, bipedal bodies have evolved since our lineage diverged from that of chimpanzees.
What made you choose to pursue your graduate degree here at Kent State?
I completed my master's degree here, and I got to know the Anthropology and Biomedical Sciences faculty really well during that time. I saw how much they cared about their students' success, and I was also impressed by the job-placement rate for those who've graduated with PhDs in Biomedical Sciences (especially from the Human Evolutionary Biology program).
What do you enjoy most about attending Kent State for graduate school?
In my time here, I've really enjoyed the sense of community among graduate students. From the moment you walk in the door at Graduate Student Orientation — and through events offered by the GSS and the School of Biomedical Sciences — I have often felt welcome and supported.
What are your future goals?
I have relatively traditional goals for someone in my field: I hope to eventually secure a tenure-track professorship at a four-year college or university. I have been teaching now for 10 years at various levels, from the middle-school level up to the medical-school level, and I love the fulfillment and energy that I get from teaching my students. I also love research very much — it's deeply satisfying to work with data and find a pattern that could be a brand-new finding, no matter how minor that result might be. Because I love both of these realms of academia relatively equally, I am hoping to work at a place that values teaching at least as much as they value research output.
What did this award mean to you and how has it aided you?
This award is immensely validating. I have invested a lot of time and energy into developing and refining course material while I've been at KSU, and this has been especially true during the last two years because of some pretty major research setbacks related to the pandemic. Honestly, teaching has kept me sane and provided many, many moments of joy when I've really needed it. When I even heard that I had been nominated for this award, I took it as a sign that all of that time and energy had been well spent. I am deeply grateful.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I am married to a wonderful woman, Caylee Heiremans, and we have an amazing two-year-old named Peter. I spend almost all of my time with them — whether it's spare time or not — and they are very simply everything to me. I love cooking and baking, especially when it's for my family. In the last year, my son and I have taken to going on hikes in the many beautiful parklands in Portage and Summit Counties. If you ever see me out there with him, I'm playing Pokémon GO as well!