Career Spotlight: Research Scientist and Mechanical Engineer

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Vi Rapp is a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and focuses her research on improving combustion systems. One aspect of her work is designing cleaner, more efficient cookstoves.

About three billion people (almost half the world’s population), particularly in areas of Latin America, Africa and Asia, cook over fires that burn wood, charcoal and other solid materials. The smoke from these fires is harmful to human health and to the environment. In fact, according to the World Health Organization every year about four million people, many of them young children, die from diseases related to smoke inhalation as a result of cooking and heating their homes using indoor fires.

To help combat this problem, Rapp is working with a team to design a new wood-burning cookstove that will produce one-tenth the pollution of traditional cooking fires.

This Career Spotlight video is part of our Engineering Is: Saving the World with Cookstoves e-book, which tells the story of how Professor Ashok Gadgil and his team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory designed a cookstove to help internally displaced persons in Darfur. The e-book includes videos, interactives and text that explore the science and engineering principles behind this project.