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PrepTalk: Rachel Morello-Frosch

Photo credit: Polly Lockman

College Prep had its first Prep Talk of the year on Tuesday September 9th, featuring Dr. Rachel Morello-Frosch, interviewed by Dr. Estrin. Dr. Morello-Frosch is a professor at Cal and an expert in environmental policy and justice. Dr. Morello-Frosch researches links between health problems caused by air pollution and race and class. The Prep Talk focused on a project Dr. Morello-Frosch has been working on in Richmond and Bolinas; she was approached by the Richmond community to study the effects of the Richmond Chevron Refinery on air quality in Richmond homes. Dr. Morello-Frosch discussed the importance of setting up goals before doing research, because they are ethically responsible for publishing once research has been done. There is sometimes contention between what the results of the study are, and what the “hiring party” was looking for. After setting up guidelines about what the purpose and extent of the study was, many Richmond residents opened their homes to the research team, allowing the team to vacuum and collect dust. Surprisingly, more homes wanted to be involved in the study than the researches had resources for (after all, who wouldn’t want a free house vacuuming!). The results of the study showed that there were pollutants in the air of people’s houses that could cause asthma and other serious health problems. The results of the study were used successfully to stop the refinery from expanding and using dirtier oils. This is just one example of Dr. Morello-Frosch’s realm of expertise, the convergence of science and ethics.

After a fascinating start to the year, we look forward to more Prep Talks to come!

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