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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

From Engineer to Change Maker: Karcher Morris

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Karcher Morris, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Ph.D. Grad Year ‘18

San Diego, Calif., June 8, 2016 - Originally from Huntington Beach, California, Karcher Morris came to UC San Diego to complete an undergraduate degree, and eventually a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. When he’s not in class or doing research in Professor Frank Talke’s mechanics lab, Morris can be found in the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio where he TAs a number of experiential learning courses, or learning about business.

“About a year and a half into my Masters, I decided to switch into a Ph.D. program because I had a great lab and a great PI,” said Morris. “At that point, I wondered about an MBA program. With undergraduate degrees in both aerospace engineering and management science, I was always looking for that well-rounded experience.”

According to Morris, it was one or the other when it came to graduate school. “I could either further my technical skillset or switch to business.”

Now, however, engineers and MBA students will work side by side in a new pilot program called the Technology Management and Entrepreneurism Fellowship Program, one of the first initiatives of the new Institute of the Global Entrepreneur and a joint venture between the Jacobs School of Engineering and the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego.

Morris is part of the first course in this program.

“This class has given me a new perspective because I’m working with a diverse group of motivated engineers.”

Why did you decide to apply for this program?

I was looking for a way to carry my management science degree forward. During the summer of 2015, I took the Rady School’s microMBA program. Rady School Professor On Amir, the professor teaching the first course in the Technology Management and Entrepreneurism Fellowship Program, was one of the instructors. It was a great seminar series, but we didn’t have the time to delve deeply into many of the business concepts. I wanted to know more but thought I’d have to decide between business and engineering.

The Technology Management and Entrepreneurism Fellowship Program appealed to me because it is a joint venture between the Jacobs School and the Rady School.  As an engineer in industry, you want to be able to lead a team that has business goals, not just engineering or academic goals.

How do you imagine this course helping you be impactful?

The Technology Management and Entrepreneurism Fellowship Program is a unique classroom environment for engineering and business minds alike.  I think, in order to have a major impact in your community and in industry, you need to have a mix of people working with you – people to challenge the way you think. This program facilitates that. 

The customer-driven value approach that we are taught forces us to keep in mind who we are trying to impact.  So far, after only a few classes in the program, I already have an understanding of how to navigate this process. I’m looking forward to the lab to market courses in the second half of the program, where we get to practice what we are learning now and set ourselves up to make an impact with the help of the MBA students.

What is it that you want to do?

My career goals are to be in and lead a company where I am surrounded by highly motivated, innovative, diverse, entrepreneurially minded people and with this group do something inconceivable.

I came into the class with an idea for cheaply employing a large amount of wearable sensors discretely spaced in a uniform, helmet, headband, or shoe. The sensors will provide data that gauge strain and impact levels, and will change the way people have fun, learn a sport, and protect themselves from injury or unhealthy habits. I’d like to see this idea go to market.

What are some of the things you've learned already?

We’ve done a few case studies that I found very valuable. We were presented with a problem; for example, a drug company needed to decide how to proceed with getting FDA approval for their drug. Based on the facts, we were asked to advocate for a path.

In any company, there are a lot of decisions that require both technical and business perspectives. The case studies are helpful because they teach engineers how to formulate a positioning statement, communicate your business strategy, and work in teams to make important decisions.

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Brittanie Collinsworth
UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation
Phone: 858-534-8390