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New Face: Jessica McMorris

Attracted to the diversity of UNLV, this new School of Nursing staff member looks forward to further developing her research skills.

People  |  Apr 30, 2018  |  By Kevin Dunegan
Portrait Jessica McMorris


Jessica McMorris, research veterinarian in the School of Nursing. (Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Creative Services)


Veterinarian Jessica McMorris has been a rebel and Las Vegas resident most of her life, values the university’s remarkable diversity, and regularly finds opportunities to be daring. (She’s almost ready to try skydiving.)


I started my undergraduate degree at UNLV more than 10 years ago, but then transferred to Tuskegee University in Alabama to obtain my animal science degree, which allowed me to focus on the classes I needed to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian. After being accepted to Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and earning my doctorate, Las Vegas was still my home and I was impressed by the outstanding opportunities offered by UNLV. 

What about UNLV strikes you as different from other places you have worked or where you went to school?

UNLV has always had a very warm and welcoming atmosphere, and I have experienced this as a former student and now as an employee. Being able to work with and continue to learn from the diverse population that UNLV has is wonderful. Some places where I worked and attended school did not have the diversity factor. UNLV has a very diverse population of students and faculty, is located in an urban setting that is centrally convenient to most places in the valley, and offers some of the most current ideas in technology, science, and research possibilities. 

I think it is important to work and/or go to school in an environment that has people from many different backgrounds because it increases your ability to learn and gain knowledge in your desired field, and enables you to learn about different cultures. I moved to Vegas with my parents during 1994 and have seen it grow and develop in many ways.  I had a chance to explore different cities while going to school in Alabama, but was always drawn back to Las Vegas. Being a part of a diverse and constantly advancing university enticed me to start my career here.

What is your current job title and what are a few of your duties?

I am currently a research veterinarian for the School of Nursing. My primary roles are to plan and perform research procedures according to approved protocols.

What inspired you to get into your field?

The veterinarian field has a wide variety of career options. While the majority of veterinarians go to vet school with intentions of working in an animal hospital, I always had an interest in doing something different. My interest in research and wanting to use my skills in ways that would foster positive outcomes attracted me to the research veterinarian career path at UNLV. 

What is the biggest challenge in your field?

One of the biggest challenges in my field is finding time to balance the intense science-based research procedures with large amounts of data analysis. I rely on my time management skills to efficiently get everything finished and maintain high quality work.

Finish this sentence: "If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to ..."

I honestly can’t think of any profession other than my current field that I would want to explore. Although, I have considered opening a low-cost spay and neuter facility for people who can’t afford typical veterinary services, or creating a mobile service for disabled or elderly people who own animals and are unable to drive them to a veterinary hospital.

Tell us about a time in your life when you have been daring.

Life for me continues to introduce daring situations. Pursuing my current job as a research veterinarian was a very daring time period for me because I was faced with the challenge of learning how to apply my skills in a laboratory setting. I like to say that I am a daring person and always will be in my work life and home life. I will continue to enjoy participating in daring activities such as snowboarding, gymnastics, and water sports, and would love to get enough courage up to go skydiving in the near future!

Tell us about an object in your office that has significance for you and why it is significant.

I have a tiny plastic baby figurine taped to my computer monitor. I had the wonderful “luck” of finding it when our research team celebrated Mardi Gras last year with a potluck lunch that included a King Cake. Traditionally, the King Cake is baked with a small plastic baby doll inside, and the person who gets the slice with baby in it has to host the next potluck and bring the King Cake. I originally kept this baby as a reminder that I am this year’s host. Unfortunately, Mardi Gras snuck up on me, so now I am next year’s host.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

People are often surprised to learn that I went to Nicaragua to participate in community services that involved free spaying and neutering of animals in underprivileged areas. Others are surprised to learn that I received my scuba diving certification with NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) here at UNLV many years ago, and that my favorite weekend activities are jet skiing at Lake Mead and snowboarding.