Katrina Ramirez-Meyers ’11
Powering up social justice
By Tamia Williams
Combining material science engineering and public policy for her Ph.D. education was a natural choice for Katrina Ramirez-Meyers ’11. Her passion for social justice—as well as her appreciation for batteries—comes from lessons she learned across the world.
Ramirez-Meyers’ desire to tackle social issues began at home. Her mother is a federal public defender who believes in redemption, and her father teaches her to think across borders by supporting his family in America and his relatives in Mexico. Learning about international love and justice led Ramirez-Meyers to participate in the Peace Corps from 2012 to 2014.
During that time, Ramirez-Meyers trained in Sierra Leone and became a math teacher who worked to increase students’ confidence. She noticed that many students were intimidated by math, so she started demystifying it by trying “to get people to view math as puzzles to solve,” she says.
Outside of school, Ramirez-Meyers built relationships with her neighbors and colleagues. She remembers exploring the capital city, Freetown, jumping rope with neighbors, and tutoring children off-the-clock. She’s also extremely grateful for her host family, who taught her Mende, which is the local language, and other life skills. “Everything was exciting,” she admits. “Learning how to do laundry was exciting. Learning how to cook was exciting. Even learning the language.” By living in West Africa, she also realized that “technology doesn’t get used in a vacuum. You have to think about the communities: what assets they have and what cultures influence their development projects and leadership structures.”
In her Ph.D. program at Carnegie Mellon University, Ramirez-Meyers studies chemistry, quantum mechanics, and electricity while contemplating her work’s impact. She aims “to think about how to translate these huge social roblems that motivate me down to the battery design space,” she says. “Or how to integrate batteries into systems in a way that translates to those social impacts.”
Ramirez-Meyers credits part of her mixed interests to her time at Goucher College. She fondly recalls professors encouraging individuality. This was an important foundation for her Ph.D. program. Ramirez-Meyers says, “The way that Goucher allows for people to explore diverse interests helps me think about making crazy connections between literature about social equity and material science. I just think there’s a lot of cool opportunities at Goucher to make really interesting connections between seemingly different fields.”
Now, Ramirez-Meyers connects her social equity perspective and love for batteries in her professional career. As a young woman of color, she’s proud to be part of the Graduate Education Minority Fellowship, which funded her internship at the National Renewable Energy Lab. She’s happily making space for upcoming women of color and expects to receive her Ph.D. in May 2023.