Merrill Storch ’23
During her time on College Hill, Merrill Storch ’23 has developed a passion for sustainability through her studies in physics and interest in mechanical engineering. Now, she’s taking her talents to Stanford as a graduate student, where she’ll study how mechanical engineering can be used to address climate change.
What drew you to Stanford to pursue a master’s in mechanical engineering?

In addition to the caliber of the program, I am interested in energy and sustainability, so I was drawn to Stanford’s Mechanical Engineering Department, which has a lot of faculty and coursework on energy systems. Also, I liked that Stanford has a flexible curriculum that will allow me to take classes across disciplines. They emphasize the importance of depth and breadth, so taking courses in your concentration in engineering but also in other concentrations and in other departments. I think this holistic approach to education is extremely valuable, especially coming from Hamilton’s open curriculum.

Merrill Storch ’23

Major: Physics
Hometown: Cortland, N.Y.
High School: Cortland High School

How did Hamilton help you “know thyself” well enough to get started on this next chapter?

Through my classes and research experiences at Hamilton, I’ve learned that I like working collaboratively and that I prefer the applied aspects of physics to the theoretical. The Physics Department at Hamilton does a great job of emphasizing the importance of working together, and through collaborative office hours and study groups, I learned that I enjoy working in teams. Also, my summer research at Hamilton and senior thesis helped me realize that the real-world application of physics is important to me. I like seeing how physics can explain macroscopic systems and address real-world problems. These aspects of physics ultimately drew me to pursuing engineering.

“I liked that Stanford has a flexible curriculum that will allow me to take classes across disciplines… I think this holistic approach to education is extremely valuable, especially coming from Hamilton’s open curriculum.”

What particular experiences drew you to mechanical engineering in the first place?

I really enjoyed my Classical Mechanics class at Hamilton, which has to do with conceptualizing motion, forces, and energy on a large scale. This pushed me to look into different careers that applied physics to the motion of larger systems. After doing some research and talking to some alumni, I learned that mechanical engineering uses the aspects of physics I enjoy the most and can be applied to a large variety of applications.

Engineering at Hamilton

Hamilton offers several dual degree programs (B.A. from Hamilton and B.S. from the engineering school) for students interested in engineering but who also want the benefits of a liberal arts education.

You were drawn to engineering because you want to use physics concepts to address real-world issues. Can you give us some examples of these problems?

I am mostly interested in how mechanical engineering can be used to help address climate change. The adverse effects of climate change devastate communities globally, and rural areas that lack resources are especially vulnerable. I feel strongly that the shift toward greener energy and technology is both an essential engineering opportunity and social justice issue. The work being done at Stanford to develop more sustainable energy conversion and storage devices is especially exciting to me, and I am eager to contribute to their research.

How did you develop your passion for contributing to sustainable engineering solutions?

I really got into sustainability after my junior year when I took a class on climate change. I learned about the dire importance of decarbonizing the energy sector and how engineers are at the forefront of this mission. Already having a passion for math and physics, I knew I had to explore the possibility of sustainable engineering. I searched for programs that offered classes where I could pursue this interest and chose to study in Cork, Ireland, which has an energy engineering major. In Ireland, I took two energy engineering courses and learned how to make Ireland’s transportation sector cleaner and about the use of solar and geothermal energy. These classes fascinated me because I saw how math and science could be applied to make a positive, sustainable impact.

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