3 Ways To Ensure a Successful Internship
By Nikki N.
As my internship ends, I have reflected on the successes and challenges of my internship. Over the summer, I worked to encourage nail salons to join the Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program and to educate workers and consumers on the occupational hazards in the workplace. After working with both the Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP) and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, I realized that there were 3 main factors that made my internship a success:
- Self-advocacy: When I first started, my scope of work was limited to outreaching to nail salons and to the public were able to find content gaps in educational materials for nail salon workers and consumers and address these gaps. Because we took the initiative to advocate for ourselves, my partner and I were able to create a compliance worksheet, information flyer, health and safety factsheet, and compile 12 profiles of nail salon workers and their children to publish on social media.
- Planning in advance andself-reflection : When I first thought about the 9 week internship, I didn’t think it would be enough time to make an impact; however, those 9 (or 10) weeks can make a huge difference to a community or an organization. Being effective in a short time period requires thinking about potential challenges, coming up with a plan and sticking to it. For example, my partner and I anticipated it would be a challenge to get people to think of us as professionals because of our ages. We had to anticipate this challenge and make plans for how to address this (showing our knowledge and being very kind). It was also important for me to self-reflect on my internship to think about what I liked and disliked about my experience; I liked the personalized connections I made with the workers but I could not see myself doing educational work for long periods of time. This made me realize I wanted to impact a few people deeply and to hear people’s stories, which solidified my desire to enter the medical field. Without self-reflecting, I might not have come to this realization about my career path.
- Asking for help when necessary: Although it may not be easy, supervisors are there to help provide you with guidance. It is from asking advisors that my partner and I were able to come up with some of our projects ideas and to obtain incentives that we would use to motivate consumers to listen to us. It was important for me (and for others) to realize that the internship is a rare opportunity to learn about something cool in the field of Environmental and Occupational Health. I discovered that we must be in control of our learning even if we need to ask for help along the way. When there is a potential issue, it is always best to address it early (like my partner and I did when we wanted work so we can have the best experience possible.
Getting Ready for my OHIP Internship
By Nikki N.
I am glad to have the opportunity to do my internship through the Occupational Health Internship program. I got my internship through stalking the DEOHS career page, finding the opportunity, and speaking about my passion to occupational health through the essay questions, cover letter, resume, and letter of recommendation.
The Occupational Health Internship program is a national internship funded by NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) with the intention of training students about occupational health in hopes of them being the future leaders in the field. The program matches 20-28 students with prechosen projects with different union organizations and academic institutions in different urban cities like Chicago, LA, and New York. Some examples for this year includes looking at Labor and Workplace conditions of Tesla workers (San Francisco), documenting hazards and the injury experiences of grocery workers (Chicago), and hazard characterization in the IBT-represented Department of Energy Sites (DC Area). My preferences in toxicology and my Vietnamese background made me a good fit to work in the Los Angeles Site with the UCLA and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative partnership. At this site, I will provide outreach for healthy nail salons around Santa Monica (where the workers are 50-80% Vietnamese) so that both workers and consumers will can enjoy a safer environment.
Because Environmental/Occupational health is interdisciplinary, a three day orientation is held to get everyone on track. Here we get information such as background on our project, our workplan, and other details related to the program. Shown here is just a few of the documents I’ve needed in preparation for the internship.
I’m excited to work with an amazing partner from UCLA on the “Pretty Shouldn’t Stink: supporting the health of nail salon workers in California.” My focus will be to recruit nail salons to join the Santa Monica Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program for less toxic nail salons (salons with ventilation/glove use and without some of the more toxic chemicals in their products. I will also conduct outreach and trainings to nail salon owners and workers on health, safety, and their worker’s rights. I will ultimately develop a factsheet to educate nail salon workers on their rights. With rising national concerns over health hazards in nail salons, I am especially excited to hear the workers’ perspectives and stories about working in nail salons. I look forward to learning about how potential health hazards may have affected these workers, and providing them with some knowledge on safer practices in their salons. However, I am also nervous for the same reason. In some cases, change has not happened for a reason, and I want to make sure I am providing this information in a way where the workers will want to receive it. Regardless, it will be an amazing opportunity to interact with workers, see first-hand the hazards of the workplace, and work towards education and mitigation.
How I Got My EHS Internship
By Sarah H.
Over winter break, my mom asked me how my search was going for a summer internship. I half nervously told her I had not yet begun looking and then received a look of disappointment. Going into my search for a summer internship I knew I wanted two things: one, I wanted to live at home (in Los Angeles), and two I wanted my internship to be Environmental Health related. When I began to look this was hard because most University of Washington internship programs were Seattle-based, and the internships I found outside of Seattle seemed to be PR or marketing-related. I became anxious because I did not think I was going to be able to find anything. I thought this until I came across Beautycounter on Indeed.com (a job searching website). The job posting said this was an Environmental Health and Safety internship located in Santa Monica, which hit both my goals. When I found this opportunity, I told my friend how I was applying at a makeup company I had never heard of. My friend told me that she knew a consultant who worked for that company, and she gave me her number. I next texted the girl asking about the company, and she gave me her manager’s email. I emailed the consultant’s manager, who gave me the email of the director in charge of hiring. I next emailed the director with a letter informing him of my interest. I also included my resume in the email. After a few emails, I was offered an over the phone interview with the woman in charge of the Environmental Health and Safety DepartmentThe phone interview went smoothly. I told her what my major was, where I grew up, and about my Environmental Health major at UW. It was a very casual conversation, but I was also well prepared and had questions to ask her about the company to show interest. After this phone call, I emailed her thanking her for her time, and received a note from Travis’s assistant saying that the woman was very impressed with me. I was told I would hear back in a week. After only a couple of days, I received a phone call that I got the internship! I was ecstatic!
What I learned from this experience is the importance of networking. It was luck that I found the consultant, but because of her, I was able to email the director and stand out compared to someone who did not have that connection. Also, I learned the importance of following up and being professional. When I finished the phone interview, I made sure to email the interviewer, the director, and his assistant, to thank them all independently for their help and consideration. These extra steps are something that I will continue to use whenever applying for internships or jobs in the future.
First impressions at My EHS Internship
By Sarah H.
On my first day of work, I arrived at my internship thirty minutes early. I did not know what the traffic would be like (LA traffic is unpredictable), and I knew that the parking garage was about a ten-minute walk from the building. The night before, I tried on different outfits, making sure that I looked appropriately dressed in business casual. Once I arrived at the building, I waited in the lobby because I was told all the new interns were going to meet there for a welcome day. When everyone arrived, we went into a conference room, had a meet and greet, and were shown a “What is Beautycounter?” presentation. We went around the room saying where we were from, our major, and what internship we had. Next, we were shown the presentation to learn about Beautycounter and its mission. Beautycounter’s goal is “to get safer products into the hands of everyone.” I did not know this before, but many cosmetic ingredients are not regulated. Products can contain very harmful ingredients that can cause health issues. In the EU, they have over 1,400 banned chemicals, but in the US, there are only thirty! Beautycounter is not only making safer products, but also fighting to ban more harmful chemicals. This presentation was very moving to me, because Beautycounter I related to the company’s goals. They identified a problem with the beauty industry, and not only are they working to make safer products, but they are taking the next steps of lobbying in D.C. against these toxic chemicals. After this presentation, I met my manager and the rest of the Environmental Health and Safety Team. The EHS team works closely with Product Development as well as Project Management, so I met all the team members. Everyone was very warm and welcoming. The three departments all went for lunch together to welcome the new interns, which also gave me a chance to meet the interns I will work closely with this summer. My first impression of Beautycounter made me excited for my summer to begin. I was looking forward to working with everyone and being a part of a positive change in the beauty industry.
My Internship with the Washington Department of Health at Public Health Laboratories
By Nhi N.
This summer, I am doing my internship at the Washington Department of Health Public Health Laboratories (PHL) in Shoreline. I found out about this internship through my department’s career services, and I interviewed with the DOH twice before getting the offer for the position. I will work as a Lab Assistant 1 in the Office of Environmental Laboratory Sciences (ELS). The Office of Environmental Laboratory Sciences is divided into two main sections: Environmental Microbiology and Environmental Chemistry and Radiation. The laboratory units in the ELS provide a wide variety of testing of environmental samples and clinical specimens and are certified by several federal programs that include the EPA, FDA, College of American Pathologists, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
This office is comprised of six units, and for my internship, I will work in the Biotoxin, Shellfish Chemistry & Water Laboratory Units, but I will mainly be in the Shellfish Biotoxins program. My internship will revolve around the process of sample preparation and analysis of different types of shellfish sent to the laboratory from many different regions in Washington. I will help and learn from other chemists in my program while we test shellfish for the presence of three main naturally occur marine biotoxins: Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) from Domoic Acid, Diarrheic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) from Okadiac Acid, and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) from Saxitoxins. I will also work under the supervision of a chemist for the Shellfish Chemistry for Metals (Arsenic) project.
I am most excited about seeing how what I learned in school will be applied to a real work environment setting. I look forward to learning more about environmental sampling from this internship and exploring more about the public health side of this field. Even though I took a good number of classes at the UW that include lab work, I was still a little nervous about being in charge of a station in the lab. I will have to make sure that the all the procedures that I perform are precise and correct to ensure that the samples are prepared correctly for analysis. However, on the first day that I worked in the lab, everyone was really nice and supportive. After meeting and being trained by my colleagues, I am now more comfortable with the work that I do in the lab, and excited to learn more over the summer.
The Application Road to NEPHIP
By Antonia R.
Over the summer, I am participating in the National Environmental Public Health Internship Program (NEPHIP). The NEPHIP gives 35 environmental Public Health students the opportunity to intern at a local, tribal, or state health department. The application process is overseen by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) and they look at the written responses and at the students’ transcripts. I found out about this internship from the career adviser for Environmental Health at UW. I also applied to three other internships, but this was the internship that I was most interested in.
I do not think that finding internships to apply for is hard because UW DEOHS maintains the internship page full of opportunities and sends out emails about new internships, so just keeping your eyes open helps. Many internships require a resume and a cover letter, or a written statement that answers a prompt, like the NEPHIP. For this program, I would advise starting the essays early so you have enough time to find feedback and edit your answers. The prompts require relatively short essays, so I think that the challenge lies in answering your prompt while also emphasizing your qualities concisely. I recommend having multiple people look over the essays, especially the Internship Manager because she knows what the evaluators are looking for in an application.
Many internship programs also require a recommendation letter, so you should ask your professor at least two weeks in advance. Furthermore, I recommend “going with the awkward” and meet with them in person to discuss your motivations and how you think the internship would help you in the future. In addition to discussing these subjects with them, I would also recommend giving them a copy of your resume, so they can have some reminders of how awesome you are and what to include in their letter. When I applied to NEPHIP, I was surprised that they had a form for the recommender, and yet no interview for the applicant. I think these were both pleasant surprises and reasons why you should apply for this internship program.
In the NEPHIP application, you can choose regions of the country where you would be willing to go for an internship. Finally, NEHA matches your application to the host health departments’ available projects and the region of your preference. I wrote my application essay about water quality and its impact on vulnerable communities, giving arsenic contamination as a personal example. I was matched to St. Mary’s County Health Department, Maryland, where I map arsenic concentration in the county’s drinking water and I modify outreach material to have a greater impact on the community. I do not know about other students’ applications, but I think that the matching process worked well, so I recommend applying for the NEPHIP if you are looking to work on an environmental health issue that you are passionate about and get paid for it.
My Internship Experience
By Amanda M.
In the conversations I have with community members, I can tell that smoke and wildfires are constantly on everyone’s mind. In the Methow Valley in central Washington, where I am interning, there have been a significant number of wildfires during the last few years. The people here have seen fires pass through right next to their homes. Some of their homes are still standing today and others have not been so lucky. I’m working hand in hand with the Methow Valley Clean Air Project, a nonprofit whose goal is to educate citizens about air quality issues and improve the air quality with attainable goals. I’m excited by my internship because it is a great opportunity for me to work on a project that will have a big impact on people in this community.
The main project I’m working on is placing a network of low-cost air sensors across the Methow Valley. With grant money and sponsorship from community members, we have twenty PurpleAir monitors that I am placing at homes, businesses, and schools. These monitors are a great supplement to the two federal air monitors in the area because they report air quality data in real time. Through some research I’ve done I discovered that the PurpleAir monitors may report a higher concentration of PM2.5 than is actually present in the air. I’m collaborating with other people who have more experience with data validation to correct this.
Many of the skills that I am using during my internship are ones I have built through group projects in many of my environmental health classes. When I think about it now, working at an organization is just like working on a group project in class but on a larger scale. I’m collaborating with many different individuals and organizations to get key stakeholders of the community involved with the project. This requires good communication skills and an organized approach on my end. I highly recommend diving into group projects whole-heartedly because they will give you good experience for working on your internship and someday when you have a real job (I hope!).
Reflecting on My Internship
By Yasmin E.
During my internship, I have had the valuable experience of learning how light rail sites are constructed, planned, and integrated with safety. Within the first few weeks, I truly dove into the work of safety certification. Safety certification is a process of certifying different hazards with an initial risk rating as well as a mitigation and a final risk rating. Many stakeholders are responsible for the risk ratings, including people outside of the field of safety. There are several people, from firefighters to police officers, that take part in the process of making sure all hazards are identified to make these stations safe for operators as well as riders.
Within my internship, I’ve worked on a master log of hazards identified from several past projects. This means there are hundreds of hazards to sift through, many of which are redundant or need updates with sources. I’ve been tasked to sift through these hazards to make sure the risk ratings are accurate, their references to associated codes are up to date, as well as identify other hazards that are closely related and can be combined.
The most important skills for this task are to be very familiar with excel, as well as keep an open mind when re-reviewing these hazards. When working with hundreds of columns and rows, it can be easy to get lost. When re-reviewing risk ratings, it’s important to use the matrix to determine risk. It is also important to think about these situations with different perspectives and be flexible.
The support that will help the most to be successful on this project is a project mentor. It’s also very important to keep good communication and not be afraid to ask questions. In my few weeks of experience, there were several questions that I had to ask, and occasionally I must have safety information re-iterated. Although I will never completely get the big picture within my limited time as an intern, it’s important to soak in as much information as I can.
About my Internship at the Okanogan County Public Health Department
By Katelyn K.
My internship for the summer contains two parts. One is working for the Okanogan County Public Health Department, and the other is doing research under the Environmental Health Research Experience Program (EHREP) through the University of Washington. At the Okanogan Health Department, I shadow the environmental health specialists during their daily tasks. Many of these tasks include doing food inspections, pool inspections, septic system evaluations, handling environmental health complaints, and mapping/inspecting wells. For EHREP, I am helping the health department improve public service announcements during wildfire smoke events, as well as their N95 mask distribution system. I created a survey for the general public asking questions about wildfire smoke and I am currently handing out flyers to get people to participate in the study.
Katie collecting a soil sample from a septic system test hole.
Throughout my time here, I learned that two of the most important skills for working in this field are social skills and being able to communicate effectively. Proprietors are often unhappy when you tell them to close their restaurant down because it is a health hazard, and homeowners can get defensive when you come onto their property explaining they need to clean up their solid waste piles. Working for the health department, one must know (or learn quickly) how to appropriately act during these situations. You must ensure the public understands you are there as a helpful resource and not as a threat. Another necessary skill is to be able to work independently. On some days, there isn’t any fieldwork, which means you must find work around the office. There have been times when I have kept myself busy by making pamphlets about N95 masks since there is a lot of public demand for them. It is not always possible to wait for directions from your supervisors; you must be comfortable doing productive things on your own.
One of the biggest parts of my internship is collecting responses for my survey regarding N95 masks. To be successful, I am relying on everyone at the health department to support me and get the word out about the survey. They have been very helpful by stopping at the town halls, businesses, and gas stations to hand out flyers advertising my survey. In addition to the health department, I have received a lot of support from two professors in the Environmental Health department at the UW. They helped me write my survey questions, check up on me weekly, and answer any questions I may have regarding my research about N95 mask distribution here at the Okanogan Health Department.