IUP to Harvard: One Student’s Path

Posted on 10/16/2020 10:17:40 AM

In a conversation with Morgan Glasser, it doesn’t take long to realize her passion for science and learning was born well before she ever stepped into a classroom. Life experiences, family ties, and perseverance have shaped her success.

Mom Wendy, an elementary teacher, had two master’s degrees before Morgan was 10 years old. Her father, Fred, exposed Morgan to the complexity of the family farm in Marion Center and to his career as a plant mechanic at IUP’s S. W. Jack Cogeneration plant.

“They learned how to fix things right the first time, by being patient,” Fred said of his daughters. “Morgan has the drive and the interest to be the best. As the youngest, she was scrappy and wanted to prove herself. My wife and I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

Morgan Glasser (6th from left) with John Kopchick at a breakfast for Kopchick Fellows at MD Anderson Cancer Center, summer 2019.

Morgan Glasser (6th from left) with John Kopchick at a breakfast for Kopchick Fellows at MD Anderson Cancer Center, summer 2019.

John Kopchick and Morgan Glasser at a reception honoring Kopchick Fellows at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

John Kopchick and Morgan Glasser at a reception honoring Kopchick Fellows at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

As a junior in 2019, Morgan Glasser was selected as IUP’s second recipient of the Kopchick Summer Fellowship, offered to one IUP student each summer.

This student travels to and is housed near the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, thanks to the generosity of John (’72, M’75) and Char (’73) Kopchick, for whom IUP’s natural sciences and mathematics college is named. When the Kopchicks committed to a $10.5-million gift to MD Anderson and UT Health Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, they stipulated that an IUP student would be offered a chance to study at the world-renowned research institution.

“It was really an exciting time,” Glasser said. “I was on the bus after a long day in the lab and thought, ‘I could literally sing out loud,’ because I just felt so happy, fulfilled, and grateful—to have the opportunity, to be in Houston, to my professors for giving me the chance, to Dr. Kopchick for offering the big-city experience to someone from a small town. . . . The blessings go on and on.”

Building on that opportunity and using the IUP biology/pre-medical degree she earned in May, Glasser took a job at Harvard Medical School as a research assistant studying digit-tip regeneration. Biology faculty members Christina Ruby and Vida Irani along with her mentor, Robert Major, played a key role in building the foundation Glasser leans on today.

Glasser working in the lab at MD. Anderson Cancer Center focused on studying the Drosophila fly (fruit fly).

Glasser working in the lab at MD. Anderson Cancer Center focused on studying the Drosophila fly (fruit fly).

“They [Ruby and Irani] were always stopping in to talk to Dr. Major, like colleagues do,” Glasser said. “I got to know them, and we were always collaborating and talking. It’s such a strong community. When I went to Houston, I felt well prepared in techniques in the lab and the critical-thinking skills taught in classes and used in IUP labs. My professors at IUP put me in the position to move my knowledge forward.”

Glasser’s tenacity and persistence helped her graduate from both Marion Center Junior-Senior High School and IUP with a perfect 4.0—a point not lost on her father.

“All three of my daughters have had great professors at IUP,” Fred Glasser said. “They helped make learning interesting. Morgan loves to learn. I know how hard she worked, and still does, to get those 4.0s. It’s not just about getting an A. She’s gone above and beyond my and my wife’s expectations.”