Wellesley College Scientists Win EPA Grant
To Support Earth-Friendly Heating Options for Poor Nations

Nov. 12, 2009

CONTACT: Molly Tarantino
mtaranti@wellesley.edu; 781-283-2901

WELLESLEY, Mass.— Wellesley College alumna Catlin Powers, class of 2009, spent as many as 50 hours a week during her college years fighting to bring heat, clean water and other necessities to those in need -- from the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas to economically depressed areas of the Dominican Republic, Ghana and India. Now a student at Harvard School of Public Health, Powers and a team from Wellesley College will continue this work with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Wellesley College alumna Catlin Powers '09 (left) stands in front of the SolSource 3-in-1, a device that harnesses solar energy
for cooking, heating and electricity generation.

Powers and other investigators, including project advisor Nolan Flynn, associate professor of chemistry at Wellesley, have won $10,000 from the EPA's P3 Awards, a national student design competition focusing on people, prosperity and the planet. The prize will benefit SolSource 3-in-1, a device that harnesses solar energy for cooking, heating and electricity generation.

"The P3 grant is being used for further research and development," said Powers, co-founder of One Earth Designs, which helps communities achieve sustainable living through science and engineering education and infrastructure development. "We want to be able to provide people with a variety of functional clean energy options. This allows us to create more specialized designs rather than trying to satisfy everyone in one go."

Wellesley professors and students will continue to be involved in these efforts.

"The funding and perseverance necessary to pursue the work has greatly benefited from Nolan's involvement as well as that of [Wellesley] professors Didem Vardar Ulu and Dan Brabander," Powers said, adding that some design options were inspired by discussions in Professor Flynn's analytical chemistry class.

Hoi-Fei Mok, a Wellesley College senior of San Leandro, Calif., heard about One Earth Designs last year and was impressed by its innovative ideas and motivations. She began interning with the Cambridge team to work on a "HeatSource Textiles" project this semester.

"The project is aimed toward designing a low-cost ... material that can be integrated into the traditional clothes of Himalayan nomads to provide a mobile and sustainable source of heating," said Mok, a biochemistry major.

Senior Yi Zhang of Tacoma, Wash., a history and Russian area studies major at Wellesley, brought her interest in international development and environmental protection to One Earth Designs as a consultant. She has experience working with technologies that address international development using materials and designs that match the needs of the local community.

"I love the HeatSource project in particular because it targets both environmental health and poverty through reducing the use of toxic and expensive heating fuels," Zhang said.

Powers and her work has been featured on the Discovery Channel and in The Boston Globe article, "Five to Watch." She won $75,000 this year from the St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, among other honors.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries.