Senior Morgan Yapundich is an undergraduate researcher majoring in chemistry within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. Her research focuses on pharmacological experiments that will shed light on how a drug induces cellular death in cancer cells.

Morgan Yapundich

When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A fashion designer or a professional ballet dancer.

Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose research as a career path.

I really enjoyed the organic chemistry classes I took my sophomore year. It was cool to learn more about the molecules that make up the world around us, and it provided me with a visual to the chemistry I was learning prior to that class. I also enjoyed the puzzles of figuring out the synthesis of these molecules and delving deeper into the detail of their mechanisms. This class and my desire to explore career options led me undergraduate research, and with the help of my organic professor, Dr. Crimmins, I was able to land a position in a lab.

Describe your research in five words.

“Chemistry: a weapon against cancer.”

What’s an interesting/funny story from your time doing research?

Well, this past summer when I was working with Discovery Chemistry at Merck Research Laboratories, I was told to perform an experiment using a compound that cost about $1,500/gram … per gram! Let’s just say I was sweating while weighing it out on the balance.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female researchers in your field?

Trust yourself and your abilities, and don’t give up. It can be intimidating to enter a research lab — especially as an undergraduate. But it is the place where you can grow the most. Even the most intimidating postdoc was a novice at one time. Also, have an outlet or hobby in your life that helps relieve stress. I have been dancing for several years now, and it has most definitely been the reason why I stay sane during the school year.

Story by endeavors magazine for UNC Research, as part of their Women in Science Wednesday initiative. Each week during 2017, they will publish a short Q&A feature on one of UNC’s female researchers — whether she is an undergrad, PhD candidate, or full professor. Please click here to make a recommendation.

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