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Rao, Smitha, PhD

Rao, Smitha, PhD

Assistant Professor

Pronouns: She/They

614-247-5325 |

Download Curriculum Vitae


Dr. Smitha Rao’s work at the intersection of environment, development, and social policy is informed by her interdisciplinary background in social work and human geography. Her research interests include: (1) extreme weather events and contextual vulnerability, (2) improving adaptive capacities among communities to deal with climatic and other stressors, and (3) effects of air pollution on environmental health and improving access to clean energy. Dr. Rao has over a decade of macro-practice experience spanning academic and not-for-profit settings. This included post-disaster community-based reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, campaign strategy and design for local and international environmental organizations on climate change, phasing out toxins from industry, and promoting sustainable agriculture practices. Her current work encompasses social vulnerability in the context of disasters and disaster risk reduction to develop knowledge and inform policies centering underserved communities. Her interdisciplinary work touches upon climate change implications for vulnerable groups, energy poverty, anti-oppressive praxis, and ecological justice.


PhD - Boston College, 2021 - Social Work
MSc - King's College, London UK, 2011 - Environment and Development
MA - Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), India, 2005 - Social Work
BA - University of Delhi, India, 2003 - Journalism

Areas of Expertise

Contextual vulnerability
Disasters and extreme weather events
Climate & environmental justice
Environment-Development-Social policy
Energy poverty

Areas of Interest for Mentoring PhD Students

Environmental justice
Global & interdisciplinary research
Anti-oppression work