Morgan Chaney

Morgan Chaney, a biomedical sciences doctoral student, was one of two advanced doctoral students awarded the David B. Smith Scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year. Read further to learn more about his research, future goals and Kent State experience.

David B. Smith Scholarship Recipient, Morgan Chaney
  1. Please give a short overview of your research.

    I study the evolution of golden bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur aureus), specifically I want to know how they have adapted to tolerate prodigious amounts of cyanide in their specialized, very bamboo-centric diet. These animals can survive daily doses of cyanide exceeding their estimated lethal dose by about 50 times – what's more, they show no symptoms of cyanide intoxication whatsoever! This is a singular and surprising biological phenomenon because of cyanide's extreme toxicity, evident in the compound's classification as a weapon of mass destruction by the U.S. Department of Defense. To uncover how the lemurs can tolerate this extreme poison, I am mostly using genomic methods to find which genes have been crafted by natural selection. Very excitingly, this will include building a high quality genome for this critically endangered species of lemur.

  2. What made you choose to pursue your graduate degree here at Kent State?

    The first reason has to do with the excellent faculty here at KSU. I completed my master's degree here in 2015, studying the behavior of white-faced capuchin monkeys in southwestern Costa Rica. During that time, I developed a lot of relationships in the Anthropology Department and the School of Biomedical Sciences. I knew I wanted to continue my education to obtain a Ph.D., and after finishing my M.A., I really felt that I would be best supported by the faculty at KSU because of their expertise in their fields and dedication to students.

    The second reason is more personal. I am an Ohio boy, born and bred, and it means a lot to me to stay close to my family. My wife and I also knew that we wanted to start a family when I was applying to Ph.D. programs, and this only increased our preference to stay close to both sets of our parents.

  3. What do you enjoy most about attending Kent State for graduate school?

    It sounds fulsome, I know, but I cannot emphasize enough how supported I've felt by the Anthropology Department. My wife and I had our first child last summer (see the little primate on my back in my photo?); since then, I have seen nothing but kindness and understanding from my friends, colleagues and mentors in the Anthropology Department as I have found my bearings as a parent in addition to a graduate student.

  4. What are your future goals?

    My goals are traditional. I would like to obtain a tenure-track professorship at a college or university. Preferably, I'd like to stay in Ohio or at least the Midwestern region.

  5. What does this award mean to you and how will it aid you?

    More than anything, this award is a wonderful reassurance that I'm doing well with my work. Like most graduate students, I have struggled with at least a modicum of self-doubt about how I have progressed with my research and through my program. I am very grateful to the Division of Graduate Studies for selecting me for the David B. Smith award.