Tag Archives: intern

Sandy J.: About My EHS Internship Project

About My EHS Internship Project

By Sandy J.

Sandy in the field with a direct-reading instrument during formaldehyde exposure monitoring

During my internship at the UW Environmental Health and Safety, I organized and analyzed the  database for formaldehyde exposure monitoring on UW campus and affiliated hospitals. I also  was assigned to construct an internal Formaldehyde Exposure Monitoring Plan. First, I read all of the the paper and electronic formaldehyde exposure monitoring reports from 1994 to present. There were about 700 entries! Then I created a spreadsheet that organizes this information under important variables, which could help future users understand and utilize it as a tool. I brainstormed a lot about what the important determinants are in terms of formaldehyde exposure. During my upcoming presentation of this database, I plan to present significant trends in the exposure of UW employees, and what we can learn from these trends. To create the Formaldehyde Exposure Monitoring Plan, I needed a strong understanding of the potential exposure scenarios and sampling methods. Because I wanted to create a tool for the future industrial hygienists to use in their formaldehyde monitoring, I had to think about what they would like to know and what they should pay attention to that is specific to formaldehyde use at UW. I went on numerous monitoring surveys around campus with an industrial hygienist. Every field survey taught me more about working on an EHS team and of course, formaldehyde exposure. I made sure to take notes, pictures of the facilities, and engineer controls. I always asked questions before and after the surveys. I am still working on these projects. The projects consist of a great amount of information that need careful presentation and organization, and I will make them awesome by revising many times and asking for peer review. As I am finishing up my internship and these projects, I am supported by the industrial hygienists in the department, my supervisors, and my coworkers who are more than willing to help. My deliverables will not only reflect my learning from this experience but all of the work and support that the Environmental Health and Safety team provides.

Sandy J.: How I Got My EHS Internship

How I Got My EHS Internship

By Sandy J.

Sandy in front of her office at UW EHS

After taking the ENV H 453 Industrial Hygiene course, I developed a great curiosity for more education about safety and prevention in the work environment. I just liked the idea of protecting people that work in their space up to 8 hours a day every day. Due to the hard work of environmental health and safety specialists, my family and friends are safe and happy in their workplaces. I have a hard science background with double majors in Biochemistry and Environmental Health, so I also wanted to find a niche that includes both biological or chemical science, and safety and prevention. One day I decided to do some research on UW’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, which is an administrative department that serves to provide safe working environment for UW employees. I emailed the Senior Director of the department with my questions and was not even sure if I would get a response. She responded with a very welcoming message and we scheduled a time to speak on the phone a few days later. When I talked to her on the phone for about 30 minutes, I was so happy that someone was listening and understood the capacity of my curiosity and passion. She was working with her team on the exact fields I was hoping to learn about. She then referred me to the Assistant Director of the department and I scheduled to meet with her for more inspiration and guidance. My meeting with the Assistant Director of Research and Occupational Safety was more than pleasant and to my surprise it became an interview for an internship. It was one of my happiest moments in college, because I saw that if I took actions on my interests and passions, I could find opportunities for myself. Not only did I discover that something like biosafety and industrial hygiene existed, but I also gained an opportunity to be a part of the work and it truly has been a life-changing experience!

 

Ali E.: An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer

An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer

By Ali E.

During these past few weeks at my internship, I’ve met a handful of different environmental health officers (EHOs) who all have varying interests, backgrounds, and stories. I’ve learned the different ways they ended up within the Office of Environmental Health in the Indian Health Service, and where they see themselves going in the future. Of all these people, there was one in particular who had a really interesting career path and who participated in an informational interview with me.

Learning how to conduct a pool survey

I met Kate a few weeks into my internship because she’s the EHO within our district with the most experience with pools. Because my project for the summer dealt with pools, I was able to go visit her field office for a few days. I learned the ins and outs of pool surveys, including debriefing with the pool operators, checking safety equipment, testing pool chemical levels, checking equipment maintenance, checking for proper documentation and chemical use, and above all how to give recommendations on how to improve the facility. Aside from learning how to properly and thoroughly conduct a pool survey, I learned a lot about Kate’s history that led her to where she is today.

Kate got her bachelor’s degree in exercise sport science because she was an athlete and loved sports and considered becoming an OT. She signed up for a Master of Public Administration program, but after a year changed to environmental health. Like me, she kind of stumbled unknowingly into environmental health because she liked the electives it offered.

The interesting part of Kate’s educational background is that she did an online master’s program that she spread out over the course of six years, which allowed her to travel around the world and work in various jobs while completing her degree. Prior to this summer, I hadn’t met a lot of people who had done their master’s degrees online, but I learned about the many advantages, as well as disadvantages, to going the online route. Kate is currently looking at getting a graduate certificate in epidemiology because her long-term goal is to get her doctorate and to work abroad, potentially with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doing environmental health work. I didn’t know that certificates existed before meeting Kate, and she showed me that there are a multitude of ways to go about education at the graduate level, and that there is plenty of time to do so. I personally want to take some time off before pursuing a master’s to work in different settings to find my niche. Kate showed me that it isn’t necessary to rush through your education just to get a degree, but that it’s more valuable to take time to find what you’re really passionate about.

Jamie O: About My Internship At The Hawaii Department of Health

About My Internship At The Hawaii Department of Health

By Jamie O.

When I first began my internship at the Environmental Microbiology Section, I spoke to my supervisor about the specific plans she had for me.  Now that I am at the end of my internship, I can say that I definitely had the opportunity not only to participate in the tasks she had prepared, but so much more.

For the Vibrio spp. validation studies, I prepared samples by first scrubbing away debris from the shellfish shells.

 

My supervisor’s primary plans for me involved learning how to process water and food samples with EPA- and FDA-approved standard operating procedures, and I have definitely gained a greater understanding of these procedures from being mentored throughout each step of each process.  I observed how media was made for the different analyses, and then saw how the media is used for each type of analysis.  Throughout the internship, I saw how the microbiologists in the lab receive the samples and process drinking water, beach water, dairy, and shellfish samples.  Not only did I observe, but also my supervisor and the microbiologists in the lab were so gracious to allow for me to get hands-on experience, like helping to set up for the analyses.  I even had the incredible opportunity to go to Hawaiian fishponds where the shellfish samples were obtained for the lab.  In addition, my supervisor allowed me to get involved with Vibrio spp. validation studies with shellfish samples by working hands-on with real-time PCR.

My advice to future environmental health interns is to be attentive and inquisitive throughout the length of the internship.

I then shucked mostly diploid and triploid oysters with bone cutters and shucking knife.

In order to successfully complete such tasks, I made sure to pay close attention when being taught to ensure that the tasks being entrusted to me were going to be carried out in the best way possible.  Also, in the lab it is imperative to observe carefully when watching lab techniques during the processing of samples in order to truly understand how those in the lab work so hard to ensure the quality of their test results for public safety.  By refining these skills, future interns will be able to make the most out of their experiences and truly learn and be of use to their coworkers.

I’m grateful to everyone I had the honor of working with for making my summer internship such an amazing experience.  They encouraged me to get as much hands-on experience as I could, and they were so patient in teaching me about what they do best.  Having the opportunity to intern at the SLD in the area of environmental health that I am passionate about with such a dynamic group of people made my summer more than worthwhile, and I am excited for future interns to have such an enriching summer as well.

After decanting away the shellfish liquor, I assisted with blending the shellfish meats prior to analysis.

Meet Our Interns: Ali E.

My Internship with the Indian Health Service

By Ali E.

This summer I’m completing my internship with the Office of Environmental Health and Engineering with the Indian Health Service. The Indian Health Service is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that supplies health care services to federally recognized tribes. I’m stationed in a field office in Parker, AZ, which is located in the western side of the state. Over the course of the summer, I’m going to assist two Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) in my office with everything that they have on their plate, as well as work on my personal project regarding pool inspections. Our field office covers a large geographical area that serves five different tribes scattered throughout western Arizona, eastern California, and southern Nevada. I also have the opportunity to travel to another field office and the district office to work with EHOs that have different specializations and work with different tribes.

I’m really excited for the work I’m going to do this summer because the Environmental Health department tackles almost everything that a standard health department would manage. Looking over my work plan for the summer, I’m going to be getting exposure to vector control, food safety, injury prevention, and institutional health. I know that I want to continue on to complete a master’s degree, but I’m unsure about what specific area of Environmental Health I want to specialize in. I’m hoping that this internship will help me determine what areas of Environmental Health I want to pursue, as well as give me a better idea of what I want in a long term career.

As with anything new, it’s hard to come in to a brand new setting not knowing what your role is going to be, how you’re going to fit into the existing dynamics, and if the knowledge you already have is going to be sufficient. But from my first week and a half I can attest that as long as you are enthusiastic, hardworking, and willing to put in effort and ask questions, that you can be successful in any new setting.

Meet Our Interns: Jamie E.

How I Found My Out-of-State Internship

By Jamie E.

Jame E calibrating the pH meter and taking the pH of media being used for analyses.

When I began to look at internships for over the summer, I made sure to look for opportunities that not only explored my area of interest within environmental health, but also were close to my home in Hawaii.  Since leaving home to go to school on the mainland, I wanted to take the opportunity to become more familiar with the public health issues that are concerning communities in Hawaii, while also exploring my interest in environmental microbiology.  After thinking of where to begin my search for Hawaii internships, I decided to try searching through the State of Hawaii Department of Health website.

As I was exploring through the website I was so excited to see that there was a State Laboratories Division (SLD) on the island of Oahu, and that there was an Environmental Microbiology section.  Though I did not find internships listed, I emailed the supervisor of the Environmental Microbiology section inquiring if there were any undergraduate summer internships available.  I followed my internship advisor’s advice and had also looked at other internships in Washington, but in the back of my mind I knew that if there was an internship at the SLD that it would be my first choice.  I also knew that there was a slim chance of me having the opportunity to work specifically in my area of interest with communities back at home in Hawaii, but I still anxiously waited and hoped that there was a chance.  When I received a reply email, I was thrilled and incredibly grateful to find out that the SLD was willing to take me on as an intern for the summer.

My advice to future environmental health interns is to not be afraid to reach out to organizations conducting work in your area of interest, even if it may seem that there are no internship opportunities available.

State of Hawaii Department of Health State Laboratories Division

If I had not taken the initiative to ask about available internships, I would not have gained the abundance of knowledge and variety of experiences that I have had here at the SLD.  I also would not have been able to work with such a kind and supportive group of people that I did work with at the lab.  For these reasons and many more, I encourage future environmental health studies to take this risk, because it may lead to a truly unforgettable and enriching experience.

 

Meet Our Interns: Natalia

The Skills I Use In My Environmental Health Internship

By Natalia K.

This summer I will be working as an Environmental Health Technician at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health department. My internship is in the Department of Environmental Health, and within the subdivision of Food, Community, and Safety program. For this internship, I will be inspecting pools, spas, and spray parks in the Tacoma-Pierce County area. I will inspect each facility in my assigned area a total of two times during the duration of my internship.

Natalia conducting a pool inspection at her summer internship.

Inspecting pools may sound like an easy job, but it’s no walk in the park. Some skills that are required for this internship are as follows:

  1. Staying organized

This job requires a person who has great organization skills. At each pool inspection, a pool inspector uses an online database provided by the health department to produce a paper inspection report, which states the time and date of inspection, water quality data, and any necessary violations. During the inspection, you have to be able to keep track of certain violations that were found during the inspection. Inspection may be very long, so keeping notes on complicated violations help me complete detailed inspection reports for each pool facility.

  1. Background in chemistry

A strong background in chemistry is a required skill for this internship, especially experience with lab chemistry and good lab technique. At each pool inspection, a set of water quality tests is conducted, which involved many different reagents and chemicals. These tests must be done with precision and accuracy, since the data is important and has the potential to shut down or close a pool.

  1. Being able to learn from your mentors

During inspections there are always new situations that can bring up questions. Having the ability to learn from mistakes and take criticism well is required for this internship, as it helps an inspector to become the best health inspector they can be by learning from their mistakes!

  1. Great communication skills

I would say that good communication skills are the most important skill to this internship. When walking into a pool facility, you need the ability to locate the right person, and introduce yourself and present yourself in a professional manner. You must be confident in your knowledge about pools and be able to ask questions to maintenance staff or pool operators.

  1. Driving skills

My assigned area is a very large portion of Pierce County, which requires me to drive around between each facility to do inspections! Good driving skills and habits are required for this internship.

  1. Passion for public health and loving the outdoors!
  2. Support!

No one is a perfect inspector without practice and help from mentors! This internship required support from my supervisors who taught me what I needed to know about pool maintenance and water chemistry. They also took me out in the field with them to learn the proper way to conduct pool inspections, as well as how to operate the inspection report database which creates the inspection reports to be given to pool operators. My supervisors were also always on call and were available to answer questions if I ever needed help when I was out on my own in the field.

Nathan: My Role as an IH Intern

My Role as an IH Intern

By Nathan P.

Nathan at his work station at CertainTeed Gypsum

For my internship, I went to CertainTeed Gypsum, a drywall manufacturing facility located in South Seattle. I got this internship opportunity through a personal connect: my dad mentioned to his supervisor that I had to do an internship for the Environmental Health program, and at the time the Safety Engineer was completely overloaded with safety projects. CertainTeed Gypsum invited me to come on as a safety intern to help ease the load and improve the safety conditions in the plant.

My mentors are the plant’s safety engineer and safety lead.  Although his title is “Safety Engineer,” my mentor’s role is really more of a “Safety Manager. ” In essence, the Safety Manager oversees all the safety operations occurring in the plant and is in charge of handling accidents in the workplace, creating new safety protocols, and organizing meetings with workers to address safety concerns. The role of the Safety Lead”is to ensure that the plant is in compliance with all of OSHA’s regulations.  The Safety Lead does safety trainings with new workers and tries to find the most efficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that fits with not only OSHA’s regulations, but corporate’s safety decisions as well.

My role as a safety intern is risk identification and management regarding the chemical products used in the plant.  There are over 200 different chemicals used in the maintenance of all the machines and mobile equipment.  I will be going around areas of the plant and recording the name of each chemical product, its manufacturer, and the amount on site.  Afterwards, I will go onto their Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) database and determine if the SDS for the product is up to date. If it is not, then I would have to submit a chemical request form as well as the most recent SDS for the product to the safety and environmental departments in order for the most recent SDS to be uploaded onto the database.  For each product, I then make a one-page simplified version of the SDS that contains information most relevant to the workers: name of the product, health hazards, first-aid measures, appropriate storage, accidental spill protocol, and PPE required for handling the product.  I will also create PPE visual aids for the chemical products in each area so that workers don’t have to refer to simplified SDSs but instead look at a poster that gives hazard pictograms of each product and the appropriate PPE to wear.

What most excites me about this internship is the opportunity to observe environmental health and safety practices outside the classroom.  Usually in classes, people generally have the same attitudes when it comes to safety but in the real-world not everyone has a safety mindset.  Most people I think are more concerned with doing their job and doing it well, and don’t take kindly to all the safety “obstacles” that hinder their day.  I think it will be interesting to be part of the interplay between the management officials who are concerned with safety and enforce safety measures, and the workers who want to get the job done as efficiently as possible.  Of course I’m nervous, too.  This is my first time working a full-time job (or any job for that matter) and I will be working with people I haven’t met before. Personally, I hope to integrate into this work culture as smoothly as possible.

 

Meet Our Interns: Nick M.

About My Internship at Washington State Department of Health

By Nick M.

My internship for the summer is at the Food and Shellfish Bacteriology Laboratory at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Public Health Laboratories. I was brought on to help with the Vibrio Project that goes on during the summer months. The researchers are monitoring the levels of the bacterium Vibrio Parahaemolyticus in commercial oysters during this time because pathogenic organisms grow well in the warm summer months and have the potential to cause illness when consumed raw.

Nick collecting oysters out on a commercial growing site

I was worried about finding an internship for summer, and after a couple months of delayed applications I grew more and more concerned. Luckily, with some help and advice, I was able to land my position for the summer at DOH and was quite excited -if not a little bit nervous- for when I started there. The main lesson I learned from my application process was to apply to everything that you would reasonably be able to do and to get started on your application materials like your resume and cover letters early so as to expedite the application processes.

From what I have experienced so far at the lab, I can already tell that this will be an extremely beneficial and impactful experience for me. This is especially true because I do not know exactly what I would like to pursue after graduation, and being in an environment in my field with people from all different backgrounds is a great learning opportunity for me. Most everyone I have talked to is very willing and eager to answer my questions, tell me about their own careers and interests, as well as listen to my own input and stories. All of my coworkers and leads have been tremendously helpful as I learn how to work in the lab. I have found that I am learning a lot about new techniques and processes that I did not know about before, but I am also relying on information I have learned in classes, which has proven to be extremely helpful.

Katie S: Skills Gained and Values Learned – An Intern’s Introspection

Skills Gained and Values Learned – An Intern’s Introspection

By Katie S.

This summer I completed an internship with Public Health – Seattle & King County within their Communication’s division. I know. It’s a mouthful. But, as I leave this organization and these wonderful group of people, everyone keeps asking: What’s next? The short answer: I don’t know and that’s okay. This internship may not have given me an epiphany as to what I want my future career to be, but it helped me better understand how I function in a workplace and some values that are important to me at this stage in my career.

Katie S. at her summer internship.

 

Skills Gained

Throughout school, I have pushed myself and developed skills that helped me be successful in my internship, like time-management, organization, prioritization of tasks, written communication, etc. These are skills I have developed over years and am still continuing to work on them. I always thought they were a necessity to have in school and didn’t think anything more of them; I used these skills to succeed. What I found out through my internship is that I thoroughly enjoy having multiple projects on my desk. I love having variety in my work and being responsible for multiple things. This is one way in which I try to push myself and be able to get involved in a variety of projects.

Values Learned

Though the exposure to my coworkers and their dynamics, I identified some workplace dynamics I would like to find in future workplaces. Everyone in Communications is committed to the relationships built within their group, which then strengthens their work as a team. All of them are very open to improvements, and they trust each other to develop and grow. I think this is the type of work environment that I would want to be a part of one day. I would love to work with some of my closest friends and develop positive relationship with my coworkers.

An example of one of Katie’s internship projects, a heat safety comic book.

Career Epiphany or Ongoing Process?

Figuring out my potential career is an ongoing process. It will change as i grow and learn more about myself. In my internship, I definitely gained respect for the Public Information Officers in Public Health, and now I think I want my future work to be more community-focused and interactive. At this point, I’m not exactly sure what my future will look like, but if I stay true to myself and continue to grow, I’m confident that I will figure it out.

I am very glad I took this internship with Public Health – Seattle & King County. I developed many skills and created relationships with many people who are supportive and see a bright future for me. I am grateful to have a supervisor who was so focused on my professional development and who wanted to make my summer memorable, which she did. Now, I leave my internship with more insight into my future career and I gained skills and experiences that will help me launch forwards.