Monthly Archives: August 2018

Meet Our Interns: Iman A.

How I found my Internship

By Iman A.

Iman in her cubicle

My internship search began fall quarter 2017 in the internship prep class. I made a spreadsheet of the all the internships I was interested in, both in and out of state. I was initially overwhelmed with my search, so I put it off until winter quarter. I was very particular about the type of internship I wanted to do. Although some might just see this as a departmental requirement, I was thinking of my potential internship as the first step toward my career after graduation. I remember going to Hayley’s office quite a bit during that time for advice on my resume, as well as on other school and career related topics. One day she mentioned that L&I would be coming to our department to do an information session and conduct interviews for a few summer internship positions. At first, I just wanted to go to the info session and get a feel for what L&I was all about. I had heard a bit about them in my construction safety class and was intrigued by the type of work that they did. After talking more with Hayley, I ended up sending in my resume. To prepare for my interview, I did some more research on L&I and specifically the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). I prepared some answers for possible interview questions and did practiced interviewing by doing a mock interview with Diane, the NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) career advisor. With targeted interview advice from both Hayley and Diane, I was able to successfully pass my interview and land an internship at L&I DOSH! One piece of advice for future students would be to have your resume and cover letter ready at all times because you never know when your ideal internship will pop up. Also, the sooner you start your internship search the less stressful it’ll be, so start early to save yourself the trouble.

Kate T.: About My Mosquito Surveillance Project

About My Mosquito Surveillance Project

By Kate T.

My major internship tasks were weekly mosquito surveillance and the development of a mosquito visualization template to communicate the risk of (and recommendations for) West Nile Virus to the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Health Department. I didn’t need too many hard skills besides general background knowledge on surveillance and sampling coming into this project to make it awesome – just determination, persistence, and a little bit of creativity. Although I completed this project mostly independently, I did receive feedback and guidance from my preceptor during various stages of its development. 

In order to get a sense of the risk for West Nile Virus activity on the reservation, I first began by identifying sixteen spots throughout the reservation where I could set up mosquito traps to monitor for various species. Mosquitoes are most likely to congregate in areas near standing water, so I prioritized these locations. These included homes with birdbaths and trees near stormwater drainage areas. Although Tucson is known for dry heat over the summer, it’s also known for its monsoon season which brings humidity and amplifies mosquito activity.

Once I determined which locations I would use, my weekly routine began. This included picking up dry ice from a nearby grocery store in the afternoon (dry ice attracts mosquitoes and therefore lures them near the traps) and driving around the reservation deploying the traps at each of the predetermined locations. I would leave the traps overnight and would come extra early the following day to collect each trap. Although these steps were repetitive and at times tedious, especially in scorching Arizona heat, it made me appreciate and understand the need for consistency and perseverance in data collection. Once I collected each mosquito bag, I would place it in a cooler with dry ice to immobilize the samples so I could sort through and analyze them back in the office. Because West Nile Virus only stays viable for a couple hours after a mosquito has been killed, it’s important to analyze it as soon as possible after collection to collect accurate results.

Luckily, West Nile activity was quite low in Tucson this year, as determined by our lack of findings which were comparable to other health departments throughout the state. In the event that we did find samples containing high West Nile Virus presence, the next step would have been to notify the tribal health department and individuals living on the reservation through a radio announcement. I developed the visualization template to map out where mosquitoes were throughout the season by using PowerPoint and a birds-eye view map of the reservation. Overall, this project was a fun experience for me because it involved going out in the field and collecting data, and then finding a way to effectively communicate my findings to the general public. It was also rewarding to be able to take ownership on a project and call it my own.

Claire T.: First Impressions from My First Day

First Impressions from My First Day

By Claire T.

What strikes you most about your workplace?I think what strikes me most about the workplace at Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is how much work goes into accomplishing what seems to be a simple mission: Keep Washington Safe and Working. It is a great mission statement, very direct and indisputably important. However, in order to accomplish this mission endless work is done to ensure that employers are keeping their workers safe. Part of what L&I does is work as a big insurance company. Their job is to insure the workers. It would seem that employers and employees combined would be grateful to have this system in place. However, the reality is that too many people think of L&I and they think of citations, regulations, and a lot of extra work to avoid fines. They do not always think of the countless lives that are saved, the moms, dads, brothers, sister, and spouses that get to go home to their families every day because of the regulations and worker standards that are set in place. The reward of doing this hard work shows in the statistics. At the annual DOSH Symposium that I was able to attend, they showed worker related statistics involving worker injuries and deaths. I am sure seeing those numbers was reassuring to all the L&I employees that they are making a difference.

What strikes you most about your colleagues?
What strikes me most about my colleagues, not just my colleagues in consultations but all the people who work in DOSH, is their attitude. I admire their attitude and work ethic to continue the state’s mission to Keep Washington Safe and Working.

What are you excited about?
I am excited to continue my time at L&I and get a well-rounded feel for how the organization works. I am trying to reach out to as many people as I can to understand their function within their departments. I am excited that everything I am learning here is very transferable once my internship is over. All the knowledge that I accumulate here will help me in the future whether that be with L&I, another state agency, or somewhere in private industry. I look forward to gaining more work experience and developing my knowledge as much as I can during my time here as well as after.

Jamila F.: About My Internship Project

My Par-Cooking Project with the Snohomish Health District

By Jamila F.

My internship project involves creating educational materials for food operators that partially cook (par-cook, for short) foods, specifically raw animal meat. After observing many restaurant inspections that implement par-cooking procedures, I noticed some common food handling malpractices, including improper cooling procedures, room temperature storage, and bare-hand contact, all of which are the most prevalent contributing factors of foodborne illness. I am creating a set of posters for food operators to post around their kitchens to remind food workers of safe food handling practices concerning par-cooked foods. These posters will consist of simplified pictures rather than words to cater for those who are non-English speakers or have a limited English vocabulary.

Jamila in her cubicle at Snohomish Health District.

For this project, I will need to channel my knowledge of graphic design and word processing skills using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. I want to make the content pleasing to the eye, yet informational and correct according to the Washington State Food Code. I will also need to be creative in regards to how I will convey the Food Code with pictures. My main support for the par-cooking project will be from the two project leads in the Food Safety team since they were the ones who updated the par-cooking written procedure template. I may also need additional support from SHD’s graphic designer for “branding” purposes. Finally, after the new educational material is approved by the Food Safety team, I will need administrative support to print and publish my work so food operation facilities can utilize my materials!

Corinna O.: My Internship Projects and Tasks

My Internship Projects and Tasks

By Corinna O.

As an Industrial Hygiene Intern at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), I work mainly with industrial hygienists and accompany them on field visits, assist with sampling, opening and closing conferences, conducting employee interviews, noise monitoring, and aerosol and chemical sampling. I also work with safety professionals and consultants to see the side of their business. I plan on building my professional communication skills during my internship since I have the opportunity to talk with people at all levels from a variety of industries, from managers to employees. So far, I’ve assisted with 15 inspections. The types of industries I’ve helped inspect include an animal shelter, a brewery, a coffee roasting company, a plastics manufacturing facility, and an ice cream shop! What I like most about this internship is that I don’t get to work on just one project and one hazard. Instead, I get to contribute to many projects and gain a broad experience in occupational safety and health.

Testing a noise dosimeter in the hygiene equipment room

In order to easily adjust to my new work environment and perform effectively, I need to become familiar with the office’s structure/organization and the agency’s online system. The online system details everything I need to know as an employee and has all the resources that employees use to do their work. I need to learn how to navigate the system and learn from my mentors to gain the necessary knowledge and abilities relating to safety and health. I think it’s important to be proactive about learning new skills. Another important skill to have in this field is good communication, including nonverbal communication. Examples of good communication skills are clarity and concision, and appropriate body language and eye contact. It’s normal to be nervous and to ramble when you’re not prepared, so other good skills to have are organization and preparation. I find myself a lot less nervous and stressed about a task when I organize and prepare for it.

In order to feel confident in my work and make this internship experience as awesome as possible, I need support from my supervisor and coworkers since they are the ones training and educating me. I work closely with the industrial hygienists, and the tips and advice they give me is very valuable. Of course, being back home for an internship is nice because of the support from my family and friends. I’ve received so much support and guidance since starting my internship that I can’t imagine being anywhere else this summer. I’m definitely enjoying my time at L&I and it’s not only because of the work I do, but also the people I get to do it with!

Vy N.: How I Found My Internship

How I Found My Internship

By Vy N.

My internship searching was like a journey and it was sometimes frustrated, especially when I was a full-time student and part-time employment while I desperately needed an intern to fulfill Environmental Health Degree requirements and be able to graduate on time.  I started searching for my intern in winter quarter. At that time, with my resume and cover letter being ready, I thought I was ready to go. I mainly used Hayley’s notifications about available intern positions to navigate my intern search. Indeed, glass door sometimes were helpful as well.

I spent a lot of time editing my cover letters and resumes. I technically did not send the same resume wherever I applied. I always adjust my relevant classes, skills, and working experiences sections in my resume and re-edit my cover letter to adequately meet up the companies’ expectations. Some applications required me to have references from professors. I found that making good connection with professors was beneficial for my application. Also, some organization asked me to give them a sample of my technical writing skills. I actually used my writing homework from my technical writing class and it worked out very well. My advice to future applicants is that even if you may not like writing (writing is always my weak point), it sometimes is the most important part of your application. Everything you learn in school may be the deciding factors that make the employers’ interested in your application, so make sure read their expectations carefully to choose your relevant knowledge and skills. For instance, if you are looking for a position in a regulatory organization, mention your knowledge about Environmental Health Policy. You may mention you sampling class, but it might be not what that employer is looking for. On the other hand, the sampling class would be helpful if you apply for a laboratory position.

Generally speaking, for each place I applied, I spent an additional 2-3 hours editing my resume and cover letter before sending them out. I actually applied to only few places, and often chose “well-known” organizations like King County, Boeing, and Amazon.  But you know what? I might have adequate a resume, cover letter, and great references from professors, but they are not everything. I remember I applied to only 4-5 places at the beginning and got three interviews. Unfortunately, I was not selected after those interviews. In retrospect, I was not putting enough effort in practicing and preparing for the interviews. Being skilled at interviewing takes time and effort, and it does not happen overnight. Trust me, if you plan to apply for internships, be sure to practice your interview skills along with preparing good materials for young applications. Another piece of advice I have is to check for new internship frequently and write down all open and due dates for each internship. If you send your application within 3 days from the opening date, I’ve learned your chance of getting an interview increased, especially for some popular privates and government organizations where the application process is competitive. Last but not least, applying to as many as you can, even unpaid internships. I understand we are students, and everybody would love paid internships. My own internship is unpaid, but I’ve learned a lot from my time here and it is a priceless experience that I’m so grateful to have. I have been exposed to almost every aspects of public environmental health. I am working with different people, and traveling to different places every day. I also have projects to work on with assistance from employees and my supervisor in my Health District.  My final piece of advice is to be prepared and confident, you will find an awesome internship. Good luck!

Darcy: How I Networked to Find My Out-of-State Internship

How I Networked to Find My Out-of-State Internship

By Darcy V.

My internship search process was a little different than my classmates’ because I was searching for an internship in San Diego. As a result, I couldn’t take advantage of the department’s internship postings as much as I could have if I were looking in Washington. When I first began my internship search, I was determined to find and land an internship on my own; I primarily used Indeed and LinkedIn to search for and apply to internships. I soon realized that neglecting to utilize my connections was naïve and inefficient. Once I decided the smartest approach to a job search was to utilize my connections, I began reaching out to people I knew within the environmental health and emergency management fields. The more people I talked to about my interest and goals, the more connections I began to make. Eventually, I connected with the Assistant Director of the county Office of Emergency Services (OES) through a contact I made through a previous job. After speaking to the Assistant Director of the county OES, they connected me with one of the Senior Emergency Services Coordinators who also handles students and interns. From here, the process was quite straight forward; I interviewed with the Assistant Director and the Internship Coordinator and then began the hiring process.

County of San Diego Emergency Operations Center (EOC) The EOC is activated during disasters and is the hub for coordination and communication with the field. When the EOC is not activated, it is used for meetings, trainings, and employee work spaces.

My biggest piece of advice for future students is to take advantage of every networking opportunity and utilize your connections. It can be difficult to stand out amongst other internship applicants, and a personal introduction from a connection can never hurt. In my case, the internship was not posted online, so the only way to know about it is to reach out to the office directly. I never would have known about the internship opportunities at OES without the guidance of the individuals I met through networking. I am so happy I stepped out of my comfort zone and utilized networking to find my internship!

How I Found My Rural Public Environmental Health Internship

How I Found My Rural Public Environmental Health Internship

By Amanda D.

When I started looking for an internship last fall, I was initially overwhelmed with how much there was to manage. The first thing I did was start a spreadsheet to keep track of my internship search. I gathered information about the internships I was interested in, including details like their location, a description, and if there were deadlines to apply. As the process continued, I continued updating the spreadsheet when I found new internships, applied for positions, and when I heard back from the organizations. This system helped me stay organized and allowed me to stay on top of the whole process. When I’m looking for a “real job” next year, I’m sure I will use this tool again as well.

During the process I applied to what felt like a million different internships. The one opportunity that panned out for me was with two professors that I had previously had classes with. I found out that they were interested in working with me and so I applied to their internship program. I would definitely recommend getting to know your professors and always putting your best foot forward in class because they often have projects available to their students. By participating in class and turning in my best work, I was able to make a good impression on them which helped me get this internship. After I selected, my experience really highlighted to me the importance of networking. I will take this lesson with me as I move forward.

The community I’m in is very rural! There are about 900 people living in this town. Here is the view from my house on one of the days when the air quality was not very good.

I’m really glad that I ended up in my internship because this experience has been very rewarding so far. I’m enjoying living in a rural community because it is so different that anything I’ve ever done before. When I initially started looking for internships, I had my mind set on staying in Seattle for the summer. I think it’s important to be open to different locations because it is a great opportunity to experience a totally different way of life.

Meet Our Interns: Kate T.

My Experience Applying to JRCOSTEP

By Kate T.

Kate T. driving to a site.

My internship search began fall quarter of my junior year, when I was enrolled in ENVH 480. I learned about the JRCOSTEP internship opportunity through a fellow classmate who completed her internship the previous summer with the Indian Health Service in Phoenix, AZ. After learning about her experience, I decided there was no harm in applying. She did warn me about the lengthy application cycle, so I started looking into it right away. It started with a screening phone call to even get access to the application. It was a challenge in itself trying to catch the office during business hours, considering the time difference and being in class for the majority of the day, but eventually I managed to get through. Once I did, I gained access to a portal with a slew of application materials ranging from forms I needed to get signed by a physician, directions on how to obtain fingerprints, and reference requests. Needless to say, as a student who was already juggling a rigorous course schedule, another part-time internship, and volunteer work – I was overwhelmed.

Although it sounds simple, my best advice is to take each direction one at a time and I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to start early. JRCOSTEP is part of the Commissioned Corps, which is a branch of the U.S. Public Health Service and as such is a federal-level internship. The application process for federal positions is extremely lengthy and rigorous, which is something I had never previously experienced as most of my previous jobs were either found online or through connections. Applying was a learning process in itself and I emphasize starting early because you’ll run into all kinds of unexpected obstacles and questions. These questions and obstacles take time getting resolved – from finding an opening at a police station for fingerprinting, to making a doctor’s appointment, to mailing in the application itself. If you wait until the very last minute it’s going to be all the more stressful, if not impossible, to complete the application on time. Another important lesson I learned throughout the process is that sometimes job searches have to take priority over other responsibilities. Whenever I got too overwhelmed I tried to think long-term: several months from now, would I be more satisfied that I put in the time and effort to obtain a killer internship or that extra night I spent studying to change my class grade by 0.1 GPA points?

Additionally, I highly recommend using all of the resources that DEOHS makes available for students. I utilized Hayley’s office hours for revising and editing my personal statement, asked multiple people for recommendations as back-ups in case someone couldn’t submit the form on time, and spoke to several previous interns about their experience in the application process. The internship/job search doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be a solo journey, and your peers can sometimes be your most valuable resources.

Although I technically only applied to one internship, I actively searched for and kept tabs on other internship applications while I was waiting to hear back. The time frame was several months – I sent my initial application (after working on it for about a month and gathering the necessary requirements) in November and didn’t hear back until mid-late January for an interview. Applying for federal positions is slightly different and oftentimes more arduous than other positions, but I am happy I went through the experience, despite the stress and occasional confusion.