Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Large Abroad | Hairdresser’s daughter aids influenza, Dengue Fever research

Published:Wednesday | August 10, 2016 | 12:15 AM
Dr Juliet Morrison


Local hairdresser Pauline Ward has much to be proud of when considering her daughter Dr Juliet Morrison's successes in the field of scientific research.

"She [mom] had to work seven days a week to support us, initially as a housekeeper, and then as a hairdresser after receiving her licence in cosmetology," said Morrison who, during a period as a senior scientist at the University of Washington, led a research project geared at targeting the host's reaction to the influenza and dengue viruses through computational approaches.

A graduate of Campion College, Morrison described her time there as a learning experience where she encountered persons from other classes in society.

Morrison, recognising the island's economic imbalance, adapted strategies learnt from the more privileged, such as looking into schools overseas and building a solid transcript.

Bard College in New York wasn't at first on her radar as she initially searched for schools in London after her trip to the London International Youth Science Forum.

But the English schools didn't offer much in terms of financial aid, forcing her to set sights on Canada and the United States.

Morrison, opting for a career in science, discovered Bard College's Distinguished Scientist Scholarship.

"Bard offered a full-tuition scholarship and if you maintained a good GPA (grade-point average) you would be covered for the full four years," Morrison explained.

She then studied for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and earned her scholarship into Bard College.

Morrison, on the recommendations of her professors, would later join Columbia University to pursue her doctorate in microbiology, specialising in virus study and research.

Morrison told The Gleaner that her research at the University of Washington was undermined during her three-year tenure by an older scientist who was racially motivated.

Despite the toxic environment, Morrison formed her small circle of researchers and conducted her research after closing hours.

She eventually returned to Columbia University to join her alma mater's public health research division.

Morrison, 34, told The Gleaner that, considering her 17 years overseas, successes like hers mean a great deal for the island as they signal that Jamaica has serious talent.

As a result, she implored the Government to create more opportunities for youths to be successful.

-Romaine Newell