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Morrison receives 2020 President’s Scholar Award

October 15, 2021
Faith Harper/UTHealth

Photo of Alanna Morrison, PhD

MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School faculty member Alanna C. Morrison, PhD, was one of the recipients of the 2020 President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Research from UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair.

Each award, given to deserving individuals nominated by their peers, carries with it the honorary title of President’s Scholar.

Morrison, who is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Genetics and Epigenetics, and Quantitative Sciences, was honored for her work identifying genetic mutations underlying cardiovascular disease outcomes and risk factors. She is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and thrives in a collaborative environment, creating longstanding partnerships within UTHealth Houston, the Texas Medical Center, and with other universities across the country.

“My primary research in cardiovascular genetics has allowed me to experience the thrill of genomic discovery,” Morrison said. “We’ve made substantial progress in understanding the genetic architecture of cardiovascular disease and for related risk factors, such as high lipid levels and elevated blood pressure. Just as exciting is the opportunity to use my research as a platform to train and mentor students and early-stage investigators, and to learn from them and watch them flourish.

“In my own career, I’ve had amazing mentors. What is so special to me about this award is that I am walking in the footsteps of many of them, such as William J. “Jack” Schull, PhD, (founder of the Human Genetics Center where I now serve as the third director, and the very first President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Research, 1993); Eric Boerwinkle, PhD, (second director of the Human Genetics Center, President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Research, 2003); and Craig Hanis, PhD, (Human Genetic Center faculty, President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Research, 2011).”

Historically, recipients have been honored during a luncheon to recognize outstanding achievements, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the cancellation of the event.

"These distinguished individuals have contributed greatly to the university’s mission to advance research, provide the very best in patient care, and educate the health care leaders of tomorrow,” Colasurdo said. “As we have navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community continues to innovate, emphasizing excellence at every turn. We congratulate them on being named President’s Scholars, and we thank them for their service, leadership, and commitment.”

Kevin A. Morano, PhD, associate vice president for Faculty Affairs and Development, the Roger J. Bulger, MD, Distinguished Professor at UTHealth Houston, and Distinguished Teaching Professor of The University of Texas System (UT System), also congratulated the recipients.

“The selection criteria for the awards are rigorous, requiring evidence of innovation, recognition, and exemplary service to faculty, students, and patients, while working to elevate the stature of UTHealth Houston among our peers in Texas, the nation, and across the world,” Morano said.

This story is an abridged version of the President’s Scholar Awards story. Read the full story covering all the award here.

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