Project Manager Morgan Reed Took a Polar Path to Battelle

alt=battelle program manager Morgan Reed taking a photo with other members of her team

In one of the most remote places in the world stands Summit Station, a research facility located high on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Perhaps you’ve heard of this Arctic wonder, the world’s only high altitude, high latitude, inland year-round observing station. It was established in 1989 as part of an extensive borehole project and has evolved into a permanent base in need of modernization.

Battelle Project Manager Morgan Reed is integral to that Summit Modernization and Recapitalization effort. Though she’s been with Battelle for only about six months, she feels she’s found a home. “Battelle has a staff that treats everyone professionally,” she said. “I’ve never been anywhere with so many career-long employees. It speaks so well of the company when people spend their entire lives here.”

Though Reed doesn’t seem like a grizzled veteran of polar work experience, her quick smile and sunny disposition belie a childhood spent in Anchorage, Alaska and an early career starting on the Alaska North Slope and eventually at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. “I’m as bipolar as they come!” she said with a laugh.

alt=morgan being photographed with a penguin at McMurdo

Morgan Reed being visited by a penguin during her time at McMurdo.

Hers is not the typical story of a Battelle researcher. Reed’s parents met while her mom waited tables and her father bartended during the late ‘80s oil boom in Alaska. While adept at math and science, Reed says she was nervous, anxious and a perfectionist as a student without a clear picture of what she wanted to do in life.

As a finance major at the University of Alaska (Anchorage), she heard classmates in a calculus class talk about mechanical engineering and she changed her major finally feeling she belonged. She met her future husband in her first engineering class—and he turned out to be more permanent than the work resulting from the mechanical engineering degree she earned. 

Jobs after college included oil and gas work with CH2M and ConocoPhillips on pipeline projects. “It was great experience, and I didn’t know how valuable it was at the time,” she said. “I learned process engineering and project work, but I didn’t like the copy-and-paste aspect of the job. It wasn’t going to change. It was water or oil going through the pipe. But I met a project engineer at work. I heard him dealing with new issues every day and was attracted to that constant change.”

alt=landscape of the ice caps in the arctic


When a co-worker left the job, she took over his job and soon reconnected with him when he recruited her to work at McMurdo Station for the National Science Foundation. “I couldn’t believe I’d be supporting science and working on a project for NSF,” she said. “It was a dream come true.”

But the dream was interrupted by a scary reality. Shortly after moving from Portland, Oregon to Colorado with her now-electrical engineer husband, Reed got a breast cancer diagnosis. In her typical upbeat style, she tackled it head on. “I had surgery and radiation and then, it was off to McMurdo,” she said, noting that she recently received the news she is done with treatment and cancer free.

Even though Reed says she is not outdoorsy (unless it’s a sunny beach) and doesn’t like to camp, she went to Antarctica for the first of four stints in 2017 and enjoyed the experience of working in the world’s most remote place. “The lack of life surprised me,” she said. “There are no animals or trees. It’s not all a beautiful ice sheet. It looks like dirt. But it grows on you.”

Reed served as a project engineer at McMurdo, hosting vendors, doing environmental site assessments and telecom work and readying a site for a new build. “My favorite thing about Antarctica is how quiet it is,” she said. “You can literally hear the blood flowing through your own veins. I loved it. Absolute silence.”

alt= morgan reed at observation hill near mcmurdo station

Morgan Reed posing at Observation Hill in Antartica near the McMurdo Station.

By 2019, she sought the next step in her career. She took a job with Creative Artist Agency Icon, a company that builds stadiums and arenas. “I am not a sports fan. but they were hiring specifically to help build a non-sports project,” she said.

She remembers a bit of a culture shock, moving from remote National Science Foundation work to an office with a private company. And then she had her daughter, Lucy, another big change in her life. Reed worked for CAA Icon on the Anschutz Health Sciences Building and managed an underground lab. Other jobs included working on the Spur Building for Colorado State University, then the construction of the new Ryan Field football stadium at Northwestern University.

Again, she was ready for another challenge. That’s when she got a call from Battelle Applied Science and Technology Program Manager Kevin Gibbons who knew her from McMurdo. “I was looking for a new opportunity,” she said. “He needed a project manager.”  

That was six months ago, and now Reed feels she’s found the place she’s been looking for. “Battelle offered very interesting perks,” she said. “A young mother has a lot of requirements and that wasn’t a problem.”

Reed is now doing her favorite thing: working on the intricate details of the initial stages of the Battelle project plan to modernize Summit. “It’s a major research facility that needs all the early details taken care of before NSF secures funding for the actual construction,” she said.

This summer, Reed heads to the Arctic. “Summit is much smaller than McMurdo,” she said. “It’s not a hub. In Antarctica, all paths lead through McMurdo. In the Arctic it’s a little more decentralized. But it’s a complicated science platform we’re going to build, very technical. That’s what I love. I love working within the constraints of a project that force me to be creative.”

Construction at Summit is slated to be complete by 2032 if all things proceed as planned. “This is like my ultimate act of service,” she said. “I want to use what I have to make the world better for as many people as I can. It seems silly and pointless to do anything else".

Polar Research Operations

Supporting NSF Funded Research in the Arctic.

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February 27, 2024
Battelle Insider
Estimated Read Time
5 Mins

Polar Research Operations

Supporting NSF Funded Research in the Arctic

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