Vi Rapp, Ph.D, is a Research Scientist in the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. As lead researcher for the Cookstoves Group and the Combustion Laboratory, Vi conducts multifaceted scientific research to develop innovative technologies that improve health and provide clean energy. Currently, her research includes advanced biomass cookstoves for the developing world; low emissions burner technologies for combustion appliances and distributed energy generation; and a low-cost, robust warmer for preventing neonatal hypothermia. Vi received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in mechanical engineering. Before that, she worked for Moog Aircraft Group conducting thermal and stress analysis on primary flight control actuators for the Boeing 787 and other commercial aircraft.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
As a kid I was always fascinated by astronomy and space exploration. I would spend many late nights looking at stars, planets, and nebulae through my telescope. When I started college, I decided to major in Mechanical Engineering knowing I wanted to work on technologies to help explore other planets and the outer reaches of space. Later, I learned I could use my STEM degree to help develop and advance technologies to reduce human suffering, which is the focus of much of my current research.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
I am inspired by the opportunity to conduct innovative and cutting-edge research with the potential to have a significant impact on a global and regional scale. I am also inspired by all the amazing women at Berkeley Lab.
I have always been excited by Berkeley Lab’s culture and promotion of multidisciplinary team science. I love working in teams that are diverse in experience, perspective, and background as they bring creativity, innovation, and broad perspectives that increase the probability of success. Although conducting research to solve some of the world’s largest issues is exciting, it would not be nearly as engaging without the passion, openness, and kindness of the people who work at the Lab.
How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
Our country needs to put more women who are leading technical industries or playing technical roles in the public eye. For example, large companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, and Tesla all have male figures as their public face. Seeing women in these roles and publicizing their work would inspire more women and girls to pursue STEM careers, clearly demonstrating that these roles are not just for men.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
First, never, never, never give up. The world is full of idea killers; don’t listen to them and follow your instincts. Also, read widely (including fiction and nonfiction) to stimulate creativity. Lastly, find a mentor who you connect with; it can be a man or a woman.
When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I love to spend my free time outdoors. It could be hiking, mountain biking, climbing, skiing, running with my dog, or spending time with my family in the garden.
Learn more about our programs & resources for women and girls in STEM at http://www.energy.gov/women