Lewisburg native receives ASCE's Excellence in Journalism Award

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

Marshall County High School graduate Jessica Beard Morrison is the recipient of the Excellence in Journalism Award for her article, "How Engineers Use Ground Freezing to Build Bigger, Safer and Deeper," which appeared in NOVA Next on Oct. 30, 2013.

NOVA Next is a publication through the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) that features in-depth articles and commentaries from journalists, scientists and engineers.

The American Society of Civil Engineers Excellence in Journalism Award is given annually to a reporter or reporters whose news coverage enhances public understanding of civil engineering.

In her award-winning article, Morrison provided readers with a rare glimpse into artificial ground-freezing technology. She illustrated how civil engineers in Japan used this technique to prevent radioactive soil from spreading and contaminating nearby waterways following the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Morrison was graduated from MCHS in 2004 and went on to earn a bachelors degree in Geological Science from Middle Tennessee State University. There she graduated Magna Cum Laude and was a Dean's List Scholar for a total of four years and a McNair Scholar her senior year.

From January of 2008 to May of 2013, she attended the University of Notre Dame where she received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science.

She stumbled upon science as an undergraduate when she signed up for an introductory geology class. With love for both writing and science, Morrison has made a career with combining the two.

Since then she has written science based articles for the Chicago Tribune in Chicago, Ill., Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, N.C. and Nature Magazine in Washington, D.C.

She is currently the Assistant Editor for Chemical and Engineering News in Washington, D.C., along with being a freelance writer for various magazines like National Geographic.

"I've always felt like I would do something important. I excelled at pretty much everything I ever tried and always had the support and encouragement of my family and teachers," said Morrison.

"I never had any clue that this is where I'd be or what I'd be doing. Even five years ago, I didn't know that I would be living in D.C., reporting from the White House!"

Morrison is the daughter of Linda Dalton, daughter of Daisy Rowe and the late Marvin Rowe. Her father is the late George Kenneth Smith, son of George C. and Larry Sue Smith of Lewisburg. She has a stepfather, Eddie Dalton of Lewisburg. She is married to Brandon Morrison of Franklin, Tenn., son of Jeff and Sarah Morrison of Middle Tennessee.

"Jessica was very well-spoken, intelligent and a hard-working student who seemed to be very self motivated," said Ginger Tepedino in an article in the Tribune in 2012.

Tepedino was Morrison's guidance counselor at MCHS.

"She took a very rigorous course load ... including our Advanced Placement classes."

Morrison said she doesn't know what she will be doing by next week, much less five years from now.