Hannah Merrick receives Infinite Mile Award from MIT's School of Engineering

Hannah Merrick receives MIT's Infinite Mile Award, shown here with School of Engineering Assistant Dean Donna Savicki (left) and Dean Ian Waitz (right).
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

[Text delivered at Infinite Mile Ceremony, May 22, 2013.]

I am pleased to present Hannah Merrick with an Infinite Mile Award for Excellence. Hannah began as an Administrative Assistant to the center for Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS) in the Department of Biological Engineering in May of 2011 and she quickly became a key member of the organization, easily fulfilling all position requirements and beyond.

EBICS is a large center, including about 130 faculty, postdocs and students across 11 institutions with a small administrative staff. Hannah assists with virtually every aspect of the Center from events planning and scheduling to record keeping, accounts reconciliation, and developing budgets; from designing flyers and announcements to analyzing data and generating charts and tables; from researching project management software to navigating the National Science Foundation (NSF) bureaucracy. 

Faculty say Hannah is “not satisfied with simply running an efficient, well-organized operation…[her] willingness to take on responsibilities outside of her defined job description and her willingness to learn new skills to help the Center distinguishes her as an employee who consistently goes beyond expectations.” One example of this was when the Center did not have the funds to hire a full-time web developer; Hannah took matters into her own hands.  “Through online tutorials and readings she learned to use the back end of our web platform and was able to build the necessary portions of the site herself, allowing the Center to meet [their] critical reporting deadline[s]”.

As if that’s not enough, Hannah gracefully juggled all administrative responsibilities for the Center during a month-long gap while the Center was between managers. During the transition between managers was the annual NSF Site Visit review of the Center where she organized all efforts for this high-stakes, three-day, 50-person event involving multiple NSF offices and nearly all Center partner organizations. While this job is normally handled by two staff members, Hannah took on the 13 presentations, a poster session, a videoconference meeting with senior university administrators across three time zones, and multiple small group events held simultaneously at separate locations.  In addition, she coordinated with multiple hotels, oversaw catering to accommodate various dietary restrictions, managed internet conductivity and other IT issues during this critical site visit with grace and ease. 

We are told that Hannah’s initiative is impressive as evidenced by the considerable time and effort she put into understanding the research projects.  Consequently even though she had limited training in science, she was able to assist in scientific writing and editing while managing the research communication forum.  Faculty call Hannah’s achievement this year “nothing short of remarkable”.

Hannah, I’m thrilled to present you with an Infinite Mile Award for excellence for your extraordinary skills and willingness to go above and beyond.


  • Staff