Our blog and Radio Show features Morgan Irons, soil scientist, ecologist, environmental scientist, entrepreneur, teacher, and musician.  Also included are two articles on the benefits of listening to classical music for education and healing and an article on the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument.

Many of the world’s scientists, medical doctors, chemists, mathematicians, writers, teachers, and others have studied and played musical instruments since they were children. These eminent individuals have integrated music into their thinking process. Music is a powerful tool for motivating, inspiring, educating and soothing pain. Remember no one is immune to the power of music! Parents remember to have classical music on your family’s iPod or iPhone. Our article of the month is “Make Gratitude Your Attitude” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

Radio Show Feature Question for April 2020: How does Classical Music play a part of Morgan Irons’ life as a soil scientist, ecologist, environmental scientist, entrepreneur, teacher, and musician and what musical instrument does she play?



Morgan Irons is a soil scientist, an ecologist, an environmental scientist, an entrepreneur, teacher, and musician. She is currently a Soil and Crop Sciences PhD student in the Lehmann Lab at Cornell University, where her research focuses on fundamental soil biogeochemical research in ecological and agricultural systems. She is also the Founder and Chief Science Officer of the space and agricultural business startup, Deep Space Ecology.

Morgan is passionate about food security, ecosystem restoration, community development, environmental justice, space exploration, research, teaching, her family, and helping others.

Morgan and her four siblings are 5th generation musicians on their mother’s side, and on their father’s side, she and her siblings are 6th generation musicians, continuing their family’s musical legacy. They play the violin, flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, tenor saxophone, and piano.

Dr. Frank: “Morgan where were you born, what are your parents names, and where were you raised?”

 Morgan: “I was born on October 15, 1994 to Becky Irons and Lee Irons in Richland, Washington, but I grew up in Yorktown, Virginia. I lived in Yorktown from 1999 to 2013 before going off to college.

Dr. Frank: “When did you begin studying the violin and who was your violin teacher?”

Morgan: “I began studying the violin in the third grade, with you Dr. Frank. I continued studying for five years and played in your “student concerts”, twice a year. In the concerts, I played solos with piano, chamber music with three of my older siblings, and in chamber orchestra. We also played in the Youth Orchestra of Colonial Virginia that my parents started. My siblings and I also used our music skills to play chamber music together for church.

Dr. Frank: “Do you enjoy singing?”

Morgan: “I have always loved to sing, especially opera. I was part of the chorus at church, and in high school, I was part of the Women’s Choir as well as the Select Choir. This also gave me the opportunity to audition for and sing in the Virginia District Choir. I think violin helped me train the vibrato in my voice by experiencing the vibrations of the violin against my neck.”

Dr. Frank: “In elementary, middle school, and high school did you do well in math and science?”

Morgan: “I did very well in math and science as well as all my other classes. In elementary school, I was a year-ahead in math. Meaning, in kindergarten, I went to a first-grade math class; first grade, I went to a second-grade math class, etc. By 5th grade, I was taking pre-algebra.  By high school, I was taking Advanced Placement or AP Calculus AB and BC on Virtual Virginia. For my science classes, I was really fascinated about how the natural, physical world works, so I sucked up all the knowledge I could on biology, environmental science, physics, marine science, medical sciences, the social sciences… pretty much I ended up taking a lot of AP science classes in high school, such as AP Environmental Science and AP Biology! Ultimately, I strove to do well in all my classes. I was a straight A student throughout school, graduating from high school with a 4.7 GPA, Highest Honors, and as a National AP Scholar. A few other academic honors I received in school were being part of several honor societies; being named a Class Marshall for the Grafton High School class of 2013; being chosen to represent my high school at Virginia Girls State in 2012; receiving the York County Outstanding Youth Award for Overall Achievement in 2013; and receiving the Grafton Medallion at graduation for exemplifying what a Grafton High school student should strive to be.”

Dr. Frank: “Did your parents inspire you in math and science?”    

Morgan: “Well, my mom is a teacher, and my dad is an engineer and a physicist. Both of my parents instilled in my siblings and I the need to work hard and do our best in all that we do, especially in academics. My mom inspired me to always seek out more knowledge and to always respect the people who bring that knowledge forward, the teachers in my life. I would say that my dad inspired me the most in the STEM-specific fields: science, technology, engineering, and math. Whenever I had a question on my school assignments, he would sit down with me, and we would have a conversation; not giving me the answer but allowing me to work my way to the solution or a potential solution. I really appreciate those conversations with him because they helped me develop my critical thinking skills. Even today as a PhD student, I still call my dad to have a conversation when I have a mind block. My dad also helped me and inspired me to go after my own passions in science, which put me on the path I am on today, working as a PhD student at Cornell University in soil science and food security for Earth and outer space environments.”

Dr. Frank: “What was your favorite subject in elementary, middle school, and high school?”

Morgan: “I was one of those students who loved every subject in school! Haha Since I was young, my curiosity and need for knowledge physically manifested itself through taking my academics and my extracurricular activities seriously. My parents would call me a “Renaissance woman” because I was interested in many different things. But I will admit, by high school, I did have some favorite classes. I really enjoyed AP environmental science, AP biology, marine science, AP human geography, AP English, and AP European history.”

Dr. Frank: “Were there any teachers that inspired you in middle school or high school?

Morgan: “The teacher that I believe inspired me the most and had the largest influence on where I am today in my science and research is Mr. Morrison from 8th grade science class at Grafton Middle School. He got me involved in the Science Bowl team, the Old Dominion University’s Marine Technology Program, and the Virginia Department of Forestry’s 2009 Forestry camp. All of these activities and his science class itself lit a fire in me to go beyond school, and start doing my own research, my own projects in my life and in my community. For example, my experience with the Virginia Department of Forestry led to me being named the Duke University Tree Campus Ambassador from 2013 to 2017, in which I was in charge of engaging students in tree planting projects in the Durham, NC community where Duke University is located. I would not have had that opportunity if not for Mr. Morrison encouraging me to get involved in real world science and industry.” 

Dr. Frank: Were there any challenges in elementary school or middle school? Adversity makes us stronger!

Morgan: “In elementary school, I did experience some bullying, mostly for my red hair and being academically focused. I got through it with the help of some great friends.”

“In middle school, I had some medical issues with a non-cancerous tumor, or an osteoid osteoma, in the tibia bone of my left leg. This tumor led to me having multiple surgeries on my leg, and ultimately resulting in my bone needing to be held together with an external fixature device. I ended up being in a wheelchair for almost a year, with an additional half a year of recovery on crutches and slowly learning to walk again.”

Dr. Frank: Did you study dance?

Morgan: “I was a dancer for about 7 years through Margie Williams Studio of Dance in Yorktown during elementary school and part of middle school. In high school, I was part of the marching band’s color guard team for four years.”

Dr. Frank: “In high school were you a member of any clubs?”   

Morgan: “I was probably involved in too many clubs! Haha Oh goodness… I was a member and local chapter president of the French Honor Society; a member of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society; a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society; member and chapter president of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA); member of the National Honor Society; member and captain of the Grafton’s marching band color guard team, Lincoln-Douglas debater for the debate team, and a writer and editor for the Grafton High School Literary Magazine.” 

Dr. Frank: “In high school did you tutor other students?

Morgan: “I tutored students in math for one year through the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and tutored students in French for three years through the French Honor Society.”

Dr. Frank: “During summer vacations in high school did you have a job?”

Morgan: “Yep! I worked as a cashier and hostess in Busch Garden’s Ireland merchandise department during the summers of 2011, 2012, and 2013. I also did some modeling and acting on the side throughout the years of 2011 to 2013.”

Dr. Frank: What is your favorite musical composer?

Morgan: “I have three musical composers that I listen to quite frequently: the Chinese composer Xin Huguang, the Italian composer Antonia Vivaldi, and the Brazilian composer Eunice Katunda.”

Dr. Frank: “How did studying the violin help you in school?”  

Morgan: “Studying the violin taught me discipline and good work ethic at an early age. I needed to practice and put the time into learning the material to excel. And by exceling, I could create something beautiful and worthwhile. Classical music also helps me focus and concentrate on my studies. This has been true from elementary school to the present day. I have a Spotify playlist of just classical, violin music that I play in the lab when I am working.”

Dr. Frank: “At Duke University what was your major and minor in, did you receive any academic scholarships, and were you in a work study program?” 

Morgan: “I went to Duke University for my undergraduate degree from 2013 to 2017. I ultimately received my two Bachelor of Science degrees in Environmental Science & Policy and Biology. I also received a minor in chemistry, completed the pre-medicine track, and graduated with Double Honors. For each of the four years I attended Duke, I received several academic scholarships. I was also one of twenty incoming Duke University freshmen to be chosen as a Cardea Fellow, a four-year fellowship that provided funding and mentoring for students wanting to complete the premedical program.”

For my work study, I was a student lab assistant in the Willis Lab, working on Yellow Monkey flower research. I was also an advanced technology operator for the Duke Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility, working with electron microscopy, which I had experience with through an internship I had at NASA Langley back in high school.”

Dr. Frank:Morgan were there any professors who inspired you?”

Morgan: “At Duke, three professors come to mind immediately: Dr. Jim Heffernan and Dr. Daniel Richter of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Dr. Justin Wright of the Biology Department. All three were graduate professors, and all three helped me with my undergraduate research on the development of closed ecological systems for space habitation. They volunteered their time, gave amazing advice, and mentored me in how to approach my own research. With their guidance and inspiration, I finished my thesis research on time and received Double Honors from the Environmental Science & Policy Department and the Biology Department.

Dr. Frank: “During summers at Duke University what classes were you taking?”

Morgan: “During my first two summers at Duke University, I took additional classes so I could meet all of the requirements to receive Bachelor of Science degrees in environmental science & policy and biology, as well as receive a minor in chemistry. My third summer, I was performing my thesis research and had received a research grant.”

Dr. Frank: “While you were a student at Duke University did you teach classes?”

Morgan: “As an undergraduate at Duke, I was an online teaching assistant for a chemistry class for one spring semester in 2014. ‘

Dr. Frank: “Morgan when did you start your space industry company?

Morgan: “I started Deep Space Ecology in May of 2016, which was at the end of my third year as an undergraduate at Duke University. Deep Space Ecology is a company that works towards solving the challenges of food security and the problems of human sustainability in the deep spaces of Earth, the moon, Mars, and beyond.”

Dr. Frank: “Were you in any science and wellness clubs while at Duke University?

Morgan: “In my own first week at Duke University, I was encouraged by a professor to reach out to the Grounds and Facilities Departments to see if they involved students in their environmental initiatives. This led to the creation of the Duke Tree Campus Ambassador position, which I held from 2013 to 2017. I gained valuable experience in leading, organizing, and executing projects that required collaboration between different Duke and Durham city community members and organizations. To better organize student involvement, I founded the organization Duke Campus Keepers. The Campus Keepers planted 356 trees and almost a thousand flowers over four years. In my second year at Duke, I was invited to be the student representative on the Trees Across Durham Government Committee, which promoted further collaborations and conversations between Duke students and the Durham community. “

“Additionally, I was involved for three years with TrueBlue, an orientation week group that worked with the Duke Wellness Center to inform new students about campus resources for mental health and general wellness. I was also part of the Women’s Housing Option living group for two years, the Marine Lab Student Society for three years, the Cardea Fellowship Program for four years, and the TEDxDuke Executive Board for four years.”

Dr. Frank: “Did you receive any honors and awards while you were a student at Duke University?”   

Morgan: “While at Duke, I was a Cardea Fellow for four years and a Dean’s Summer Research Fellow in 2016, which provided me with a research grant. Also, in 2016, I received the Best Overall Conference Presentation Award at the New Worlds Conference.  In 2017, I was named a Human of the Year by VICE Motherboard Media for my research in closed ecological systems for Earth and space environments. That same year, I was invited to be a speaker at TEDxDuke, a speaker at ACC Meeting of the Minds, a speaker at Duke’s Visible Thinking, and the Cardea Fellows Induction Ceremony speaker for the new class of fellows.”

“After I graduated from Duke, I took a gap year. During that gap year, I was honored to be a Brooke Owens Fellow in 2017, the recipient of the Student Outreach Award from the Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network, an invited speaker at a good amount of space conferences, and the awardee of an official US Patent in 2018 for my “ecological system model for a self-sustaining and resilient human habitation on the Moon and Mars and for food security and climate change mitigation anywhere on Earth.”

Dr. Frank: “Morgan, please share with us your Ph.D. work at Cornell University.” 

Morgan: “Today, I am a second year Soil and Crop Sciences PhD student at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, working in Dr. Johannes Lehmann’s lab. My “major degree” for my PhD will be in soil science. My “minor degrees” for my PhD will be in agronomy and microbiology. I will hopefully be graduating in May of 2023. My research focuses on microbial- and organo-mineral stabilization mechanisms in soil aggregates and their contribution to the persistence and long-term sequestration of soil organic matter and carbon. In other words, I am working on soil fertility and understanding biogeochemical cycles, such as the carbon cycle. I am very passionate about how we can restore degraded soils and landscapes so that they may support resilient, sustainable ecosystems again.”

“I am also a teaching assistant.”

Dr. Frank: “At Cornell University what honors and awards have you received?” 

Morgan: “I have had the honor to be an invited expert at NASA Centennial Challenge’s StarHab Ideation Workshop, the recipient of a 2019 Norfolk Institute Research Fellowship, the recipient of the 2019 Ken Souza Memorial Spaceflight Award from the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research, and an invited speaker at national and international conference such as Viva Technology in Paris, France in 2019 and the Dublin Tech Summit in Ireland this year.

Dr. Frank: “At Cornell University are you in any science clubs?”

Morgan: “At Cornell, I am involved with several groups: the Graduate Women in Science organization, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, QGrads which supports the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in Science, the Biogeochemistry, Environmental Science, and Sustainability Graduate Student Association; and the field of Soil and Crop Sciences Journal Club.”

“Outside of school, I am involved in the non-profit organizations Skype A Scientist and The Mars Generation.”

Dr. Frank: “Morgan, please share with us a part of your Ph.D. dissertation work.”

Morgan: “So, part of my PhD dissertation is to understand the relative effects of gravity on the biogeochemical mechanisms involved in soil aggregation or understanding how gravity affects the microorganisms and the physical chemistry involved in how soil particles clump together. To study this, I will be sending two soil microbiome experiments to space. One of the experiments will be on a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket launch, and the other experiment will be on the International Space Station! I am very excited for both because I will be going to each of the rocket launches to see my experiments sent to space. Both launches are still a few months away, but I am working every day in the lab to get them ready and to make sure we have all the necessary information and data to perform great science. If people are interested in following what I am doing for these experiments, I post daily on Instagram with pictures and information about the science. I am also working with some teachers who are interested in getting their students involved in the research that I am doing. We are developing lesson plans and having Skype calls with their classes to get students excited about soil science, space, and agriculture! I really enjoy talking with students of all ages.”

“It has definitely been a journey to get to this point, with successes and joyful moments, but also proposal rejections, delays, rewriting, and more rewriting, all-nighters… but the work has been worth it, because I am doing what I love. My goal in life is to help restore and conserve natural environments on Earth and help in food security efforts on Earth and in space. I want people to live in safe and healthy environments no matter where they are.”

Dr. Frank: “Thank you Morgan Irons for sharing your important work as a soil scientist, ecologist, environmental scientist, entrepreneur, teacher, and musician.”

“Make Gratitude Your Attitude” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

Zig Ziglar said, “The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more things you’ll have to express gratitude for.” He also said, “Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.”

As a new high school violin student in the 11th grade, arriving in the second semester at the North Carolina School of the Arts, NCSA, in Winston-Salem, I attended my first music theory class on my first day of school. The teacher said to me, “There is no way you will pass my class!” After classes that day, I was quite depressed and went back to the dorm. That was the day I met my neighbor, Lois Artis, a wonderful trombonist, marvelous academic student, with a positive motivating attitude, always willing to help others. We talked for a few minutes and I told her what the teacher had said to me. Lois replied, “I will help you and you will do well in her music theory class.”

Lois patiently helped me understand the material, while doing laundry, so that I did well in the class! She knew, even at that young age, how to “lift” others up to realize their potential. She was a leader even in high school and understood how to develop a team. I will forever be grateful for her help.

In Mr. S’s English class in high school at NCSA, I met Bruce Lemerise, a terrific artist, and illustrator, with a brilliant mind. We enjoyed discussing the assigned books and plays by Shakespeare that we read for class and our collaboration produced the top grades in this class.

We would discuss the psychological dimensions of the characters and write thoughtful papers on our discussions. Bruce went on to study art in New York City and I went on to the Juilliard School and we continued our friendship and our discussions on books, art, music, and the theater.

When I played my graduate recitals at Juilliard, Bruce said, “How you walk on and off stage is really important.” So he made sure I practiced walking on and off the stage with my shoulders back and my head held high and balanced on my spine walking with my viola and my music. He also had a friend who did stage makeup show me how I should properly make up for the stage. Bruce knew how important first impressions were and wanted me to make a great one.

Bruce later worked as an illustrator/artist for Pepperidge Farm, Nestlé’s, Ogilvy & Mather, Avon, Durkee Spices, MGM/UA, Western Publishing, Woman’s Day, Ogilvy & Mather, Country Time Lemonade, and other companies. He did Broadway posters, and greeting cards.

Bruce Lemerise also wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “Sheldon’s Lunch” dedicated to his mother, Marie Lemerise. He illustrated A Golden Book, “Can I Get There From My Room?” and “The Big Little Golden Book of Funny Poems”. Bruce sent copies of these books for my children to enjoy.

In 1988, Bruce Lemerise died. He was a wonderful person who cared about his family, his friends and loved to draw and do illustrations. I think of him often and am so grateful that he was my friend.

As a student at the Juilliard School in New York City, I met Karen Iannotti, a remarkably gifted pianist. She was a beautiful young women, inside and out, with a warm personality always willing to help others. We lived at the Coliseum House in New York City on 228 West 71th street. We were neighbors and became good friends and enjoyed playing concerts together.

A writer friend of ours had written a one act play which he premiered at Sardis in New York City for backers and Karen and I played the background music for the play. One of the pieces was “Saber Dance” by Khachaturian which Karen and I wrote a marvelous arrangement for viola and piano. We had a wonderful time making music together and helping out our writer friend with his successful “One Act” play.

Karen Iannotti performed at Carnegie Hall in 1979 in a piano concert sponsored by Carnegie Hall, Inc. to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the birth of composer/pianist Louis Gottschalk. She also performed as a guest artist/pianist for the opening of the workshop and executive offices for Jim Henson Associates, “Moppet Show”. She was also the Musical Director and pianist for the “Bel Canto Opera Company” of New York City’s production” of “Prince Igor” by Borodin. During this time she taught many students and they learned the joy of playing the piano.

Karen was also a well-known accompanist for singers in Sara Lee’s Studio in New York City. When I wanted to study singing she suggested, “Study with Ms. Lee she’s the best voice teacher in New York City. She taught Todd Duncan who sang Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”.” Karen played for my lessons with Ms. Lee. We had a terrific time. In 1983, Karen Iannotti passed away. She brought such joy to her family, friends, relatives, and students, by her warm caring personality and her beautiful piano playing. She was one of the finest people I have ever known and I like to think she’s up there playing piano for the angels.

So what are the 3 things you can do to say thank you to the friends, teachers, coach’s, mentors, parents, or relatives who have helped you?

1) Start your day by remembering and writing down the people who have made a difference in your life. Write them a note or call and thank them. Think of one person who has made a positive impact on your life and do something nice for them.

2) Honor a special person in your life on a weekly basis by acts of kindness to others.

3) Think of the people who have made a difference in your life and honor them in some way by sharing your appreciation by random acts of kindness to others.

“Of all the “attitudes” we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life changing.”~Zig Ziglar

So start a notebook today and enter the names of your teachers, mentors, coaches, and friends who have made a difference in your life and do something nice for them. Don’t wait. Do it now, before it’s too late!

Remember what Zig Ziglar said, “The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more things you’ll have to express gratitude for.”

To contact Madeline for your next speaking engagement: [email protected]


“18 Benefits of Playing a Musical Instrument” by Michael Matthews from Inner Health MD.

How can studying a musical instrument help you? What are the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument? Learning to play a musical instrument improves your “memory, enhances your coordination, improves your mathematical abilities, improves your reading and comprehension skills, boosts your listening skills, sharpens your concentration, teaches you discipline, fosters your self-expression, and relieves stress.” These are just 8 of the 18 benefits of “playing a musical instrument.”


“18 Outstanding Benefits of listening to Classical Music” by Gavin Whitner.

What are 8  benefits of listening to classical music?  Listening to classical music “reduces blood pressure, enhances your memory, reduces stress, relieves anxiety, enhances memory, increases productivity, boosts your brain power, and calms you down.” These are just 8 of the 18 benefits of listening to classical music.”

“French researchers found that students who listened to classical music during a lecture scored much higher results than students who didn’t!”



“Studying for Finals? Let Classical Music Help” by Allison Engel from NewsUSC.EDU.  “University research in France, published in Learning and Individual Differences, found that 
students who listened to a one-hour lecture where classical music was played in the background scored significantly higher in a quiz on the lecture when compared to a similar group of students who 
heard the lecture with no music. The researchers speculated that the music put students in a heightened emotional state, making
 them more receptive to information. It is possible that music, provoking a change in the learning
 environment, influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to 
better performance on the multiple-choice quiz,” they wrote.”

“Children who listened to classical music for one hour a day 
over a six-month period exhibited brain changes that indicated greater levels of relaxation — even 
when the children were not asked to pay attention to the music.”



“The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook


Barnes and Noble(Nook)




“Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun easy way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.


Barnes and Noble(Nook)


Tips on how to use “Musical Notes On Math” 



 Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World”. This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” is music to relax by and to move by for music therapy.  Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album, or by CD by clicking below:

Download Your Copy Today!  Amazon | iTunes | CD Baby

Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is available through amazon. To order your copy of “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget”  as an e-book on Kindle click on the following link:


Wishing you and your family a happy April from your Non-Invasive Medicine…Music Expert, Madeline

For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award-winning teacher, author, researcher, speaker, conductor, and concert artist. She has found a scientific link between studying and/or listening to musical instruments and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2020 Madeline Frank.