Author Archives: deohsjob

Meet Our Interns: Nhi N.

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.


Antonia R.: The Application Road to NEPHIP

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.

Meet Our Interns: Amanda M.

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!).


Yasmin E.: Reflecting on My Internship

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.

Iman O: My Internship Tasks

My Internship Tasks

By Iman O.

During my internship at the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, I accompany
Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CHSOs) on workplace safety and health inspections in
all industries across Region 2 (King County). Inspections include opening conferences, walk
arounds, employer interviews, employee interviews, maybe some sampling, and closing
conferences. I help CSHOs conduct background research, review requested documents from
employers, and sift through the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) for codes relevant to
each inspection. I have had the opportunity to do some smaller inspections over the phone or
email. These are complaints that do not warrant a field inspection or do not have an associated
code that a CSHO could cite.

Iman in her cubicle

This internship requires a lot of research and communication skills. Inspections begin when
there’s an accident, complaint, or referral regarding a workplace hazard. In some of these
cases, the hazard description is vague. The department has a couple main databases that they
use for inspections. These allow us to research employer history, variance history, violation
history, appeal history, etc. I typically do background research with CSHOs on the company
using these tools before going out to inspect. I also found that communication skills are
essential for this internship. Due to the nature of the work, there’s no set schedule and the only
way to join CSHOs is to email them and continuously keep contact with them. There were times
that I had to email individuals I never met asking to join them on an inspection or hearing. The
more practice I have, the easier it gets. As one of the CSHOs I accompany always says, “they can
either say yes or no, and if you don’t try it’s a definite no.”

Almost everyone I have met has been very welcoming and open to me asking all the questions I
can think of. My supervisor is always on the lookout for extra learning opportunities for me and
supports me in gaining as much as possible from this experience. During my internship, I had
one of the CSHOs as my mentor. I really appreciate her and all the time she put into helping me
either with WIN (WISHA Information Network), LIINIS (L&I Industrial Insurance System), or any
other databases the department uses for inspections.

Katelyn K: About my Internship at the Okanogan County Public Health Department

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.

Katelyn K.: How I got my Internship at Okanogan County Public Health

How I got my Internship at Okanogan County Public Health

By Katelyn K.

Searching for an internship and successfully being selected as an intern was a challenging process. Applying for internships for the summer of 2018 taught me that jobs do not come easy and sometimes you end up doing something completely different than what you originally expected. When applying for internships, I had no idea I would end up at the Okanogan County Health Department. I am grateful because this has been an amazing experience and I have learned more than I imagined. Time tends to move fast and it is important to apply for internships early in the year. Over the year, I found many internships that sounded interesting to me but their deadlines had already passed. This has taught me to do a better job of staying on top of looking for different jobs/internships before it is too late.

Katie holding a purple air monitor that she set up outside of the health department.

I started out clueless about the internship process, which is why taking the ENV H 480 class in the fall was beneficial to me. I learned the steps in making myself marketable depending on the internship and adjusting my resume and cover letter depending on key words in the job description. The environmental health portal was extremely helpful for me because I could see different internship opportunities along with a link to the description and the deadline to apply. In addition to the help from the department, I used other online websites such as Glassdoor to find different internships.

Some of the questions I was asked during my interviews came as a surprise to me. One company that I interviewed with used a behavioral interview style, which I had never heard of before ENV H 480. The length of time it took to complete one of my phone interviews came as a shock because I did not expect it to take an entire hour to answer five behavioral interview questions. Lastly, I did not expect how long it took some of the companies to respond back to me. This can make it difficult while deciding to accept an internship offer because there may be another one that you would prefer but you haven’t heard back from that one yet.

My advice to future students is to be open-minded when searching for internships. Getting into an internship program takes time and waiting for the perfect one may not be the best approach. Apply to every internship that sounds interesting because this will give you more options when it’s time to decide which internship is right for you. Having the opportunity to interview at several places is good practice because you cannot expect to be perfect the first time. In the long run, this interview practice may help you secure a job at a company you really want to work for.

Meet Our Interns: Hayden K.

About My Internship at the DOH

By Hayden K.

This summer, I am going to be an intern at the WA Department of Health (DOH). I will work at the Public Health Laboratory in Shoreline, WA. At the lab, there are multiple departments such as microbiology, environmental, media prep, bio toxin, chemistry, hazardous waste management, newborn screening, epidemiology, and more. I will be assisting the Microbiology Food and Shellfish Laboratory.

I was on a search for a summer internship, and I thought this position was very interesting and would benefit me in the future since I want to pursue a career in the medical science field. I applied as instructed by emailing the supervisor my resume and cover letter and got an offer for an interview. I came for the interview and had the interview with the lab lead and supervisor. One week after the interview, I received an email from the supervisor that she would like to have a conversation with me on the phone. I talked to her on the phone, and she offered me the position.

The oyster sampling site that I visited to collect a sample.

During my internship, I will test oyster samples from throughout Washington for Vibrio parahaemolyticus. I will also assist the food lab by restocking items, preparing media and reagents, and entering data in the DOH database. Also, I will work on collecting environmental isolates of Vibrio parahaemolyticus from the positive oyster samples and run their DNA through PCR to find pathogenic strains. For the Vibrio parahaemolyticus testing, I will scrub and shuck oysters, process them through MPN dilutions, extract DNA through a Magna-pure machine, and enumerate by using real-time PCR.

I have many mentors who will train and help me throughout the internship such as the supervisor of microbiology laboratory, lab lead, and microbiologists. I will be mostly be mentored from the microbiologists at the lab, since we will work on the same tasks and they are the ones who will be in the laboratory at all times. They mentor me through step-by-step procedures on food testing, working with reagents and media, and getting familiar with the Public Health Laboratory and regular job tasks. The lab lead and supervisor will mentor me on some of the projects that I will be having later in the internship.

I am excited to gain hands-on experience on some of the machines that I learned about in my biology and chemistry courses. I will use the actual PCR machine to run samples from practical sampling sites. I will also get to see many different types of microbes and test food samples that are brought from an epidemiological investigation in the WA. I am also excited to see how my academic background as a public health student will be used practically at a public health agency.

Since I will be testing real food samples that will be used to protect the WA public health, I am a little nervous about making sure my work is accurate. The results from our tests will be sent to the FDA or whichever agency that is working on testing the food, and will be used to evaluate the amount of pathogenic bacteria.

Duo: Finding My Food Safety Internship

Finding My Food Safety Internship

By Duo G.

This summer, I will intern at Mars Global Food Safety Center, located in my hometown of Beijing, China. My internship supervisor is the global analytical research manager of the center. The Mars Global Food Safety Center opened in September 2015. It aims to increase scientific understanding and capability in an effort to ensure safe food for all through knowledge capture, knowledge generation, and knowledge sharing. It has two main laboratories – the microbiology lab and the analytical lab.

Duo in the analytical instrumentation room at Mars Global Food Safety Center.

I will work in the analytical lab together with the scientists in Global Food Safety Center. My work will focus on solving food safety issues, which include aflatoxin mitigation and food adulteration. I will have the opportunity to spend time working with different scientists for different research projects.

What I am most excited about is the opportunity to bring my knowledge and skills learnt from school into the real world. I am excited to work with the scientists in this industrial setting outside the university. As a triple major in environmental health, chemistry, and biochemistry, I am also really excited that this internship can strongly utilize and integrate my studies in all my three majors. As this is my first internship, I am also a little nervous about what my daily work will be, if there is a huge difference between school and the work, and if I can make good relationships with my colleagues.

My experience getting this internship was different than most of my classmates’. During the early stage of my internship search, I mainly focused on internship opportunities in the US. However, my search and application did not go very smoothly. I was not interested in some of the internships posted and I was feeling frustrated by the slow responses from the internships I did apply for. I decided to browse and apply for internships back in China. Many of the positions in China seemed to be much more interesting to me, and the application processes were much easier and quicker than the American ones. The internship search and application processes only took me about three days on the first week of my summer break and I received responses very quickly in the same week, some even the following day after I sent out my application. Right after my phone interviews, I received several offers. Among these, I chose this internship at Mars Global Food Safety Center. After I confirmed their offer, I booked my flight back to China and officially started my internship in Beijing in the following week.

Duo G.: About My Food Safety Internship

About My Food Safety Internship

By Duo G.

Duo in the analytical instrumentation room at Mars Global Food Safety Center.

This summer, I am interning at Mars Global Food Safety Center located in my hometown in Beijing, China. I am working in the analytical lab together with the scientists here. The lab focuses on solving the food safety issues, which include aflatoxin mitigation and food adulteration. My internship basically consists of three research projects.

From week 1 to week 3, I am working on a mycotoxin detoxifier project with Dr. Peng. Mycotoxin detoxifiers are the substances that can suppress or reduce the absorption of mycotoxins, promote the secretion of mycotoxins, or modify their mode of action. The goal of this project is to quantitively analyze the amount of mycotoxin in corn after being treated by different detoxifiers under different concentrations. The tasks include corn grinding, pipette handling, solution preparation for sample preparation & sample analysis, aflatoxin purification with immunoaffinity column (IAC), HPLC detection, and quantitative analysis.

From week 4 to week 7, I am doing a rice adulteration project. This project aims to develop an accurate and precise fingerprinting method using multivariate tools to build a robust model to distinguish possibly adulterated rice from authentic rice in China. The goal is to focus on one key tool and develop his competence on it for adulteration identification. There are two instruments of vibrational spectroscopy used in parallel in this project for collecting the spectra: SCiO (NIR) and FTIR. For NIR, it is a handheld portable device that requires little sample preparation and is very easy to use. The tasks include scanning each rice sample poured in the petri dish and then analyze the spectra. For FTIR, it requires sample preparation: I need to grind and sieve each rice sample to get the smallest layer of rice particles less than 100 microns to do the FTIR scanning, in order to maintain the accuracy and the consistency of the results. After collecting two set of spectra using two different methods for our 136 Chinese rice samples, I conduct data analysis using computer software, which includes two different computer programs: SCiO and Simca. For data analysis using each program, the tasks include data processing, model building, model testing, etc. This project is the focus of my internship.

From week 8 to week 10, I am doing a final aflatoxin mitigation project (ozone project) with Dr. Li. Chemical destruction is one way to destroy aflatoxin and with great advantage for bulky grain, like peanut kernel. The goal of this project is to operate one chemical method using ozone on degradation of aflatoxins and learn the aflatoxin detection capabilities in peanuts. The tasks include experimental design, generating ozone (ozone water) using ozone generator, determining ozone concentration in water by iodometric titration, performing ozone-aflatoxin reaction experiment, instrumental analysis using QTOF LC/MS and QQQ LC/MS. Many types of wet chemistry reaction and instrumentation are operated for this project.

These research projects at Mars Global Food Safety Center have very strong connections to environmental health. Aflatoxin contamination is responsible for huge economic loss, not only in peanuts, but also in corn and other tree nuts. Sorting systems during processing are quite effective at separating out highly contaminated materials. But this creates a waste stream which today is either destroyed, repurposed through unregulated routes, or consumed by local farmers and their families and fed to the animals. Therefore, it will cause huge environmental consequence that is harmful to our environmental health and human health. Through the study in GFSC, we are exploring potential solutions that could reduce the toxicity level of highly contaminated peanuts and open up opportunities for safely repurposing and reducing food waste, e.g. safe animal feed.

Food fraud is another key issue among food safety risks. Adulterated substances might be added into the food product to substitute the original raw material. These adulterated substances are very likely to cause negative health outcome to human. Many food fraud cases in China have caused a lot of severe health outcomes, including fatality, of the consumers, which have already become China’s public health crisis in terms of food safety. GFSC has long-term blueprint and driving ambition on raw material integrity. GFSC focuses on identifying vulnerable raw material value streams, fingerprinting technologies and prevention frameworks to aid in food fraud prevention.

Besides these three main research projects on my timeline, I am also learning about routine laboratory functioning, chemical inventory and equipment storage, and also environmental health and safety management. I am also studying a lot from the Environmental Health & Safety team at Mars Global Food Safety Center about the laboratory safety management and environmental health practices.

My solid chemistry knowledge and laboratory skills are the most important skills I need to make my internship awesome. Other basic laboratory knowledge and skills in terms of laboratory management and environmental health & safety are also very important. Many “soft skills” like interpersonal communication and time management are also needed.

I will need the support from the research scientists of analytical team, especially the scientists who act as my mentors and are in charge of the projects that I am working on. I will also need a lot of support from the lab assistants I work with over summer.