Paul Morris

Paul Morris

What’s your name, major and where are you from?

My name is Paul Morris, and I’m from Olympia Washington. I finished my undergraduate degree at the Evergreen State College before moving down to Corvallis in July of last year. I’m currently pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering however my degree would better be delineated by my research interest with the Simon ensemble where I’m currently working on anomaly detection using metal-organic framework (MOF) quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) nanosensors.

Tell us about your time at Oregon State so far?

My experience here has been new, exciting, challenging, fast, slow, all of the things. Although I’ve enjoyed the science, campus and this weird little city... what’s made it great has been the people. My cohort is full of rad awesome people, I’ve had some incredibly talented inspiring professors and I couldn’t ask for a better group of undergrads in the classes I TA.

Are you part of any clubs, sports, or student organizations?

Currently, the only extracurricular activity I’ve found time for is racquetball. Although I have other interests, it’s challenging to find time for much else beyond one thing. I find myself drawn to the fast pace and fierce competition offered by the OSU racquetball team. I like to think my ability to play has steadily risen since my initiation several months ago and I plan to put in as much time as is needed to be the best. I’m a little driven.

What kind of work do you do currently?

Currently, I’m a graduate teaching assistant for a class called chemical process dynamics and simulation. Soon, however, I’ll transition to be a graduate research assistant to work on a project for the department of defense for which I’ll likely be curating nanosensors for a drone being developed to detect nuclear weapons and gases. But it really feels like that’s not really separable from everything else.

The way I define the word work here is as kind of a blanket statement for everything I do at the college, which includes being a student. It’s mostly just balancing all the things that I do as best I can from holding office hours, grading papers, attending lectures, running studios, homework, researching things etc...

Do you have dreams after college?

Honestly, this was it. As I wrapped up my undergraduate degree I knew I wanted to come here to pursue my Ph.D., but after all this is over your guess is as good as mine. I don’t see myself working in an industry for which I don’t believe in the cause for any arbitrarily large amount of money. Although there have been times when I’ve considered further work in academia, however as I progressively learn and grow, I’m not entirely sure that I believe in the institution. Ultimately the thing I can say is with the most confidence is wherever this endeavor leads seems irrelevant when the path feels right. Someone mentioned something about a farming commune once?

How do you want to make a difference in our community? This could be current or in the future

I consider myself to be an optimist with a dash, just a pinch of nihilism. I understand that the things I do, if I do them with a high moral standard, will likely positively influence those around me. I don’t see the world and my community as a machine made of cogs I can change, fix or turn. I’m one of the cogs in this analogy, I just want to be a good cog... not worry about changing other cogs. That’s not to say, for example, I wouldn’t join my community in fighting against a hypothetical fascist movement, or supporting those in need or work on science that helps rid the world of a dependency on forever chemicals etc. I don’t see that as wanting to make a difference, rather being myself. So, the best way I can answer this that makes sense to me... is to be myself and keep doing what I’m doing and hope there’s a positive effect in the community.

Is there anything you’re passionate about? How does this apply to your work or impact in your community?

I love the deep wilderness. Getting lost, so to speak (sometimes literally, but we won’t talk about that), deep in the woods far from technology, cars, industry, and cement. So that the only things around for miles are animals and trees. After about a week or so in the woods I come back recharged and renewed. I don’t think I could do the work that I do without this occasional escape from modern technology. I have other passions as well that might be a more appropriate answer to this question, but this is the one I want to possibly end up on a hypothetical OSU social media platform. 

You’ve overcome many challenges to get you to this point. If comfortable, please share a challenge and briefly comment on what you learned from it or how you got through it.

In trying to avoid talking about the pandemic, I would say the largest hurdle otherwise would have been surviving several very difficult years of undergrad work and getting into graduate school here. I’ll never forget taking a year long 48 credit pchem program at Evergreen. I want to say that program started over max capacity (about 44 students) and ended with around 15 left. It was a very challenging course but at the same time very rewarding. My professor at the time, Dharshi Bopegederra, inspired me to go to graduate school.

In the next year of your life, what do you look forward to most?

I look forward to getting to focus on research and maybe lowering my overall work load a little so that maybe I can enjoy life. My first quarter here I took 16 credits, was a TA for an engineering lab and started working on research... this was a brutal regiment that I wouldn’t recommend unless you like pain. I don’t know, maybe I do. Honestly I joke, I enjoy my work here and I look forward to my work getting more specialized in my field because that’s where the real fun is in science.

If you could deliver one message to your peers, what would you say? (Any type of message. Inspiration, sappy, funny, whatever your heart desires)

If you haven’t already, please, sign up for the cult of the chemical engineering analysis of fluid flow and stuff. All members will receive a complimentary jar of heart of palm and a coupon for Dave’s Hot Chicken. Sacrificial recitations are on Fridays and ran by our dark leader professor Wood. Bring your own fuzzy pants. Farming commune.