Rachel Perlman

PhD Student, MIT Institute of Data, Systems, and Society

I am a PhD Candidate in Engineering Systems within the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My research interests fall within the fields of sustainable waste management, industrial ecology, and urban metabolism/ sustainability.

I am conducting my PhD research with my adviser, Dr. John Fernandez, and my two committee members Dr. Tim Gutowski and Dr. Julie Newman. I am researching the environmental and economic impacts of material consumption and waste management using the MIT campus as a case study system.

For the past two years, I also worked as a Sustainable Materials Management fellow within MIT’s Office of Sustainability; I worked with the Office to research and help implement methods for the university to reduce its materials footprint via improved purchasing and waste management practices.

I completed my master’s degree in Technology and Policy (MIT) in 2015. I conducted my master’s research with Dr. Randolph Kirchain in the Materials Systems Lab at MIT. My master’s work focused on the environmental, economic, and social implications of waste management systems in India. As a Fellow within the Tata Center for Technology and Design, I traveled to India several times to collaborate with a waste-picker cooperative there and to collect primary data.

I received my B.S. Summa Cum Laude in Science of Natural and Environmental Systems from Cornell University in 2012. Between my time at Cornell and MIT, I worked for a year assessing the life cycle emissions of computers with a start-up company called Life Cycle Analytics. During my time at Cornell, I worked as the sustainability coordinator for Cornell Dining Services, leading efforts to increase composting rate, source food locally, prevent front-of-house food waste, and train staff on sustainable practices. I also founded and served as president of a club called CU Compost, which promoted composting practices and responsible materials handling on campus. During my four years as an undergrad, I also worked as a research assistant studying water quality, soil contaminants, and urban stormwater pollutants within Cornell’s Soil and Water Lab (the topic of my honor’s thesis).

My Sessions