Women In Science: Women’s History Month – New Generation, New Innovation

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Lyndee Collins

In honor of Women’s History Month, I felt it was appropriate to honor a woman who is a distinguished innovator and inspiration to students like me. Last Monday, I had the honor to speak with Amy Mueller, co-founder of STG International and 2008 EPA People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Award winner, where we discussed her recent achievements, her P3 experience, and her life as a young scientist and entrepreneur.

In the 2008 P3 competition, Mueller and her team introduced the Solar Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), a system combining mirrored solar panels and an engine that converts the collected heat to electricity. The system is both affordable and a sustainable alternative to the common diesel generator. The design requires only readily-available, low-cost parts, such as those used in the air conditioning industry, making it ideal for encouraging development in difficult economies.

Though Ms Mueller and her team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) continue to refine their design, their idea has already changed. Since 2006, Ms Mueller and her team have installed and tested several generations of prototype systems across Lesotho, Africa, where they have trained local partners in the design and construction of their system. Their most recent prototype, installed at a clinic in the Berea district, provides larger quantities of electricity and water to meet the needs of the medical staff as they serve 50-80 patients per day.

Ms. Mueller loves that her education has provided her the opportunity to help others. She views science and engineering as powerful tools for making a difference in the world. Her advice for young women interested in science is to be interdisciplinary – learn about multiple fields of science to help you work better in a team on big projects – and try to find an inspiring mentor who can give you support and advice.

After speaking with Ms Mueller, I am particularly looking forward to this year’s P3 competition, April 15 – 17 on the National Mall. The event will take place during the EPA Earth Day celebration, where 55 new teams will compete for P3 Awards just as Amy did three years ago. The public is invited to engage the student teams, hear about their exciting research, and meet the latest generation of women out to change the world.

About the Author: Lyndee Collins is an undergraduate intern from Indiana University currently working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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