Outstanding Senior Spotlight: Morgan Johnson

Morgan Johnson sits on a bench in front of yellow and green flowers
Morgan Johnson (Courtesy)

Morgan Johnson’s most impactful experience as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis, wasn’t actually on campus.  

The biological systems engineering major says leading a month-long trip to Parque Colani, Bolivia, with the UC Davis chapter of Engineers Without Borders, or EWB, in 2023 to construct pour-flush latrines, which included a toilet, superstructure, waste pits and grey water pit, as a safe sanitation solution was extremely formative.  

She acquired new skills — like learning how to navigate complex bureaucratic processes related to approving and funding a university-sponsored project — and honed others (critical thinking, communication and adaptability), but Johnson also built the foundation for her future.  

“My experience in Bolivia gave me an appreciation for the challenges and opportunities of sustainable engineering, further shaping my research interests and career goals,” she said. “It fortified my resolve to merge technical expertise with humanitarian values in my professional endeavors.”  

Johnson joined EWB during her first year at UC Davis. The student-run organization helps developing areas around the globe with their engineering needs. One project, for example, sought to install a solar-powered groundwater well to provide clean water to a community of 3,500 people in Mabinju, Western Kenya.  

Last year, Johnson told UC Davis that the mentorship of Colleen Bronner, an associate professor of teaching in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering who serves as faculty advisor for EWB, has helped her grow as an engineer and a leader.  

“Even when difficult problems arise, Professor Bronner offers sound advice and guides us through the issues while allowing us to develop our own problem-solving skills,” Johnson said. “With her help, I’ve come to view challenges not as obstacles, but learning potentials with high rewards at the end.” 

After graduation, Johnson will stay at UC Davis to pursue a Ph.D. in biological systems engineering.  

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