Charged to make change

Monica Cooney

Apr 18, 2024

Headshot of Hannah Morin standing outside

In Hannah Morin’s first year as a graduate student, the CMU Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) was able to help her resolve a problem with her neighbor’s trash pickup, which was waking her up in the middle of the night multiple times a week. From that point on, Morin knew she wanted to be a part of this problem-solving team.

The dual Ph.D. major in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) began her tenure in GSA as a representative in the assembly for EPP, and has since progressed to Vice President of Campus Affairs, and now President of the organization since December 2022.  

GSA aims to improve the graduate student experience at CMU by advocating for improvements on issues important to graduate students - both at the University and federal government level. GSA champions that mission by lobbying for graduate student rights, allocating grants to support child care, organizing university wide social events, and providing matched funding for students to attend conferences, pursue professional development, initiate independent research projects, and access free legal aid.

 I became involved because there were opportunities to make a real and immediate difference in others’ lives

Hannah Morin, Ph.D. Student, MSE/EPP

 “I became involved because there were opportunities to make a real and immediate difference in others’ lives,” says Morin, who had gotten a taste of what student advocacy was like while serving as a resident assistant during her undergraduate degree at University of Chicago.

Morin’s interest in advocacy ties back to her research, as she hopes that her work will help create a more sustainable world. Through her work with faculty members Jay Whitacre and Jeremy Michalek, she is studying lithium ion battery degradation, particularly in regard to fast charging electric vehicles.

“My research lies at the intersection of physical science and policy,” says Morin. “I get to think about the functional materials within a battery, as well as the broader implications for society in terms of their role in decarbonization, use by consumers, and impact on the environment.” 

Working across two academic departments also draws parallels in her work with GSA, as both endeavors present opportunities to consider multiple viewpoints and hone problem solving skills. 

Hannah Morin in lab coat holding a battery

“It’s been interesting to have the perspective of different departments, both by talking to students in GSA and by studying across MSE and EPP,” says Morin. “I appreciate the opportunity to help departments exchange best practices. Being able to talk to a broad subsection of students has been incredibly helpful when trying to solve problems.”

Thinking over her accomplishments through her role with GSA, Morin is most proud of the changes brought forth by collaborative efforts that have improved holistic support of graduate students. This work includes ensuring insurance benefits, guaranteeing parental leave for students having children, increasing to the minimum stipend, and developing a preliminary framework for ensuring the minimum stipend is regularly reviewed for increases.

As Morin continues the final leg of her doctoral degree, she intends to carry forth many lessons from her experiences at CMU, but one sticks out in particular.

“I want to solve real-world problems, not just study them,” she says.