March 23, 2016

Editor’s note: March is Women’s History Month, and the LSU College of Engineering is dedicated to celebrating the influential women who work and study here. Each week, the college will feature a woman—a staff member, a faculty member, an undergraduate student and an alumna—who has made a positive impact on the college and the engineering, construction management or computer science field.

Leslie Morgan is living college life in the fast lane—figuratively and literally. Morgan, a computer science sophomore, is developing her first start-up, and she’s one of only a handful of women currently on the LSU TigerRacing Formula SAE team.

Morgan, who has had an interest in cars since she was a child and helped her father make repairs on his vehicle, first became interested in the FSAE team during her senior year at Baton Rouge High School, when the school hosted a STEM day and the FSAE team attended with their race car.

“At the time, I was on our school’s solar car team, which is basically FSAE, but for high schoolers, and you get to build solar cars,” Morgan said. “I saw joining FSAE as a way to continue my interests in college.”

Morgan joined the team the summer before her freshmen year at LSU with her friend, mechanical engineering sophomore Van Le, who she credits with easing her transition into the then all-male racing team.

At first, she said, the transition was rocky. “Guys often want to be with their bros,” she joked. But once she showed them she was interested in and knowledgeable about the subject, everything worked out.

“As a woman, the first few weeks were intimidating, at times, but once you get in and show that you know what you’re talking about, they’ll include you more and they’ll respect you,” Morgan said.

Just this year, she said, the team welcomed two more women, which has helped build community.

Morgan’s role on the team has been largely administrative, overseeing public relations and maintaining the team’s popular social media accounts.

Each year, the team participates in the world’s largest collegiate design competition, Formula SAE, where Morgan is the also the lead presenter for LSU’s team.

“I do the business presentation for the annual competition where we essentially act as if our team is a small business,” she said, “and we present to a panel of investors and try to win them over with our proposal.”

She said the business portion of the competition is much like the show Shark Tank, and the judges can be just as demanding as they are surprising. (During one presentation, she recalled, a judge caught her off guard by asking, “What keeps you up at night?” Her response? “Not knowing what I will score for my team on this presentation.”)

This year’s competition is May 11, and Morgan will present the team’s various financial agreements and protection plans with another team member.

Beyond the conference, Morgan said she plans to remain on the FSAE team until the graduates, not only because she likes the community it offers, but because it also offers unique career opportunities at companies like Ford and General Motors, which send representatives to the design competitions.

Outside of the racing team, Morgan is developing a start-up, Qlovur (pronounced “clover”), with partner and fellow computer science sophomore Eude “Kinsley” Lesperance.

Though they are in the initial stages, they hope to eventually become a full technology consulting firm. Right now, they are working on apps that fall into the field of social media and their primary project is an app called “Bunch.”

“It’s an app that is location based, and basically, you can post that you’re looking for someone to play video games with or study for a certain class with, and it puts you on a feed,” Morgan said. “It’s really great for college campuses because a lot of people come to college not having many friends or being sure how to make new ones, so Bunch will act as an ice breaker for that.”

For the app, she primarily does design work and public relations, she said, while Lesperance does the backend programming and building.

“He gets the functionality done first,” she said, “and I come in and make it easy for consumers to use.”

Morgan said they plan to head to San Francisco April 12 for F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference. There, they hope to unofficially show the running prototype to the company representatives they plan to meet during the conference.

Asked what her long-term career plans looks like, she said it’s a toss-up between her two passions.

“I would love to see myself working in [the auto] industry in some way, because there are so many different elements that go into it. There’s the art aspect of designing the car, there’s the software aspect for the technology that’s in so many newer models,” she said. “There’s the mechanical aspect of the car itself. It really is the perfect industry, because of its complexity and diversity, from the small car companies to the larger ones.”

On the other hand, she said, she could see herself “going the software engineering route,” specifically within perfecting the user experience. She explained that, “even though I love to program, I like designing a little bit more.”

But, she added: “As long as I’m doing something that I like, in an environment that I like and the culture of company is somewhere that I’ll fit into,” she said, “I’ll be happy anywhere.”

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For more information, please contact communications assistant M.B. Humphrey at 225-578-5660 or marissah@lsu.edu.



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