|Earl Warren College grad Matt Morris (right) pictured with his girlfriend on a backpacking trip.|
San Diego, CA, June 14, 2018 -- Thousands of UC San Diego’s best and brightest will take the stage this weekend as the Class of 2018 participates in the campus’ various commencement ceremonies June 16-17. The momentous occasion will be celebrated with laughs, cheers and tears, as the journey to earning a college degree can be an emotional one.
Students such as engineering physics major Matt Morris overcame obstacles and gave back while making their mark at UC San Diego.
Morris has always been interested in engineering and physics, rushing home after school to rebuild and re-engineer a 1973 Jensen Healey race car rather than playing video games. At UC San Diego, he’s studied engineering physics, furthering this childhood interest. “I chose engineering physics because it gives the best foundation for understanding system level problems and the ability to branch out into a wide range of technical disciplines,” said Morris. His other passion is sailing, and the San Diego native has participated in races all over the world.
In 2015, Morris started suffering from severe headaches and began struggling, including with difficulty retaining information in class. With severe audio and photo sensitivity, any light or noise generated excruciating pain. “I went to the Warren College Dean of Student Affairs Dean Khalfani still not knowing what was wrong with me and fearing my academic career was over,” said Morris. “He was incredible and helped me with my course schedule.” On the way home from a regatta—a series of boat races—he found himself losing control of his muscles and pulled his car to the side of the road.
Morris learned he had a pineal gland tumor. “When I went back and explained this to Dean Khalfani, I thought for sure I was done. Why should a university keep me as a student when it has ten students waiting to fill my shoes?” said Morris. “To my amazement, he said, ‘I don’t care if you come back in a year or ten years as long as you come back. If you can do what you’ve done with a tumor in your brain, let’s see what you can do without it.’”
After months of tests and doctors’ appointments, Morris flew to Houston to be considered for surgery he desperately needed. Here was the only doctor in the United States capable of performing this type of surgery, and the idea that Morris wouldn’t be a viable candidate was harrowing. Luckily, he qualified and underwent surgery a few months afterwards. Recovery was a long road ahead for Morris. He was completely blind for a day and suffered severe headaches. He had trouble remembering and eating, even vomiting for hours on end. From relearning skills as simple as walking and basic math, Morris persevered to come back to UC San Diego after only two months. With the support of Khalfani and his professors, he was able to recover fully, even attending a sailing competition in Europe the summer after his surgery.
After graduation, Morris will pursue competing in other boat races in Europe. As an avid outdoorsman, he also plans on backpacking and camping through Iceland with his girlfriend. “Right now, I’m focused on aiding in the development of a revolutionary infusion pump,” he said of an engineering project he’s working on. “After this point, I hope to apply the knowledge I’ve gained to make the world a better place through technology and innovation. Regardless of where I end up, I look forward to continuing my studies and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”