On the Path to Bridge the Gap in Health for Underserved Communities

Rice ECE Ph.D. student begins her research journey in hope for a better tomorrow

Morgan Brinson

Morgan Brinson is a doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at Rice. She earned her B.S. in physics from American University in 2021.

Brinson came to Rice because of the research opportunities in health, specifically low-cost healthcare technology and health care in underserved communities. She was looking into bioengineering, an increasingly popular field that requires much first-hand research experience.

When investigating potential schools, she heard about the research led by Ashutosh Sabharwal, ECE chair and Earnest Dell Butcher Professor of Engineering, who conducts much health-focused research.

My interest in Rice was sparked when I heard about Ashu and his involvement with PATHS-UP as well as what he was doing in the Scalable Health Labs,” Brinson said. “From working on bio-behavioral medicine to low-cost technology, specifically in reference to diabetes, his work is in the field I am passionate about. I knew it was the perfect fit.

Scalable Health Labs, led by Sabharwal, aims to quantitatively understand the behavior-biology-health pathways. The mission of the lab is to develop bio-behavioral medicine, with behavior and biology treated as interdependent aspects of a whole.

The Personalizing Affordable Technologies for Healthier Societies - Upgrading and Personalizing Healthcare (PATHS-UP) Engineering Research Center aims to develop low-cost technologies that can be used at the point of care to improve healthcare for underserved populations.

Brinson began research this semester under Sabharwal and is working on a project that involves type-one diabetes. She hopes to go into industry and work in research and development.

“Research at the Scalable Health Labs has exposed me to the how in slowly closing gaps in healthcare. This is vital because my life goal is to help develop medical technology and bridge the gap by making these technologies accessible to underserved communities,” she said.

Her interest in helping such communities stems from her time volunteering as a coach at The Grassroot Project in Washington, D.C. Its goal is to reduce health disparities by using sports to reimagine health education in middle schools, and recruiting college athletes as health educators and role models. During her time as a coach, Brinson taught students from sixth to eighth grade on subjects related to sexual health, nutrition, and mental health through the use of games.

In her spare time, Brinson plays with Rice Women’s Club Soccer. She is a member of the Black Graduate Student Association and Culture of Inclusion student lead of the PATHS-UP Leadership Board.