Morgan Bertsch: Biomedical-Engineering Major and Basketball Star

Morgan Bertsch
Morgan Bertsch has helped the UC Davis women’s basketball team to back-to-back Big West Conference titles in 2017 and 2018, and helps lead the team to Southern California this weekend in search of a third straight conference crown. Photo by Mark Honbo.

Update: Morgan Bertsch has been drafted to the WNBA's Dallas Wings. She is the first-ever Aggie to be drafted to a Women's National Basketball Association team. Congratulations, Morgan!

Morgan Bertsch not only is a biomedical-engineering major; she’s also a UC Davis Women's Basketball Team star and award-winning athlete. Get to know more about this amazing undergrad! 

What interested you in the general fields of engineering and biomedical engineering? 

Morgan Bertsch
Morgan Bertsch is a star on and off the court. Photo by Wayne Tilcock.

Having so many family members involved with engineering was definitely a reason for my interest. Being the math and science person that I am, engineering seemed like a great fit for me as well. Knowing I wanted to do engineering, I looked at the many possibilities for what to major in. For me, biomedical engineering seemed very interesting. I had always thought about going into a career in the medical field but thought engineering fit better. This major allowed me to combine the two into a career that could help the medical field. 

What interested you in coming to UC Davis and the Department?

When starting the recruiting process in high school, both the basketball and track and field coaches at UC Davis showed interest in having me on the team. Being a local kid (Santa Rosa), I was fully aware of UC Davis and its academic prestige. When looking at my future, it was important to me to find a university that I could succeed in athletically, as well as academically. I've always been aware that at some point, sports will no longer be an option for me and I'd need a degree to be successful later in life. UC Davis was a perfect fit for me. It was a great academic school, a great Division 1 competitor and close to home. I came in freshman year declared in biomedical engineering because I liked the idea of tying together medicine and engineering. Being an athlete, I've found that I love learning about how the human body works. This is one of the reasons why I really enjoy biomedical engineering. You get to work with the human body and develop innovative ways to help fix, improve or document it. 

Is there a specific field of biomedical engineering you enjoy most?

My emphasis was supposed to be in biomechanics, but unfortunately with the way my basketball schedule worked out I couldn't take many of the classes associated. I still find those classes to be the most interesting because I love seeing how the human body works. I have some biomechanics classes lined up for next quarter that I'm really looking forward to. These classes will help me to better understand how the body allows us to do so many amazing things, like play basketball! As of right now, I hope to continue to pursue a type of engineering that allows me to use my knowledge of engineering and athletics together. 

Was there a particular person in your life who inspired you to pursue engineering?

I have a lot of engineers in the family. My father got his BS in mechanical engineering and his MS in electrical engineering. He has been teaching engineering courses at Santa Rosa Junior College for more than 30 years now. My sister has a BS in environmental engineering from UC San Diego and has been working as a licensed professional engineer for a company in San Diego for three years now.  My uncle is also a professional engineer working the Silicon Valley. Engineering just runs in the genes! I think being around all these engineers growing up influenced my career decision. I had always been a math and science type of person so I started to do research on what type of careers used my interests the most. I had always known about engineering from my dad's work as well as my sister being in school at the time. My sister also played basketball while pursuing her degree in engineering: something you don't see very often. There were a lot of people that doubted it was possible because of the difficult major and how time-consuming basketball was. She worked extremely hard, sometimes taking more than 20 unit quarters to graduate in four years all while being a three-year starter on the basketball team.  She proved to everyone that it was possible if you worked hard enough. There were a lot of people that casted doubt when I decided to do biomedical engineering and basketball. But I knew it was possible because I'd seen it done before. She has been a major supporter of both my basketball and my academic careers. She has used her mistakes as well as successes to help guide me in my college experience. She has served as my role model for how to succeed in the double life. 

As a senior, what advice or words of wisdom or encouragement do you give to new biomedical-engineering students or students in general?

I would encourage students to be resilient. There are a lot of things that won't go your way throughout your career as a student at UC Davis, but how you respond to those situations will determine your success. It's a very academic school that can be very challenging at times. I've found that taking hits in stride and searching for the ways in which you succeed best has been an essential process for me here. Figure out how you work best, develop a type of process or a schedule that works best for you. As you start to figure that out, it will get easier to succeed. 

What would you like to do with your UC Davis experience and knowledge? 

This is an answer I've been on the search for for a while now, especially this past year since I'll be graduating in the spring. As of right now, my plan is to play professional basketball. Looking at my options, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is my number-one goal as of right now. If the WNBA is not a possibility for me, I'll probably end up somewhere overseas, in Asia or Europe. I won't know where until after my collegiate career completes but I'm very excited for the opportunities this will open up for me. I'm looking forward to traveling and living in another country, getting to see another side of international life I haven't seen from quick visits. If possible, I would love to stay incorporated with the BME community even while abroad, maybe through internships or part-time entry positions. Looking far into the future, my hope is to find a biomedical-engineering position that allow me to still work with athletes to develop technology to further the evolution of sport. 

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