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My Internship at the Department of Labor & Industries

My Internship at the Department of Labor & Industries

By Francis K.

I am currently interning with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries hygiene compliance team in Region 3 (Pierce, Kitsap, Jefferson, Clallam Counties). My day to day activities include inspecting regional workplaces, scheduling interviews with employees, and creating sampling plans that may assist with inspections. For example, if we need to do noise exposure monitoring I have to know what time the employers’ work shift starts so I can make sure our noise dosimeters are calibrated and fully charged.

Francis calibrates a 3M Edge EG5 Noise dosimeter for future noise sampling

The most important skill needed in this workplace is being able to communicate clearly and effectively all while maintaining composure and being professional. We routinely work with employers that can be hostile, which is understandable as they can incur serious fines. I always tell the employer that the compliance teams aren’t out to get them, but we are only there to make sure that the employer is running a business that is safe and effective.

The support system here at Labor and Industries is amazing. In my office alone you are combining 90+ years of experience between five employees.

It is important when you first get into an internship to make as many connections as possible. This includes reaching out to other sections, and finding somebody you can consult with in case a question arises. It is also important to find a mentor who will help guide you through your internship, and can give you criticism on what you need to work on and what you are doing as an intern to make the most out of your experience.

Overall, I would recommend interning at L&I to any Environmental Health undergraduate wanting to learn more about industrial hygiene and the Washington Administrative Codes that  business owners have to abide by.

All About my NEPHIP Internship

All About my NEPHIP Internship

Bu Suhani P.

This summer I will be interning for 10 weeks at the Portage County Health Department in Ravenna, Ohio through the National Environmental Public Health Internship Program (NEPHIP). There will be four projects I will work on: dry weather storm water testing, pool water testing, a mosquito control program, and a harmful algae bloom prevention program.

In order to conduct dry weather storm water testing, I first need background on the test. My trainer explained to me the purpose and procedures of dry weather testing and then I shadowed her for a few days. In the mornings, I did additional background research on the Internet about the significance of storm water testing. To perform this test, one must be meticulous, organized, and perceptive in order to read GIS maps, identify outfall points, measure water quality, and record data. To conduct pool water testing, one must have strong communication skills to introduce themself and explain to pool managers the tests. While testing pool water for chlorine, alkalinity, and pH, one must be meticulous and detailed. There is a particular methodology to follow when conducting pool water testing that has to be memorized and practice.

In my first week, I was able to oversee multiple pool inspections and conduct pool water testing. The first time I independently tested pool water, I made sure to ask my supervisor detailed questions to ensure I was appropriately conducting the test. Practicing and asking questions is the best way to learn. The mosquito control programs includes setting up mosquito traps, counting the mosquitos, tracking the number of mosquitos in each area, identifying areas of concern, and working with other members on implementing control measures. Because the mosquito control program is fairly new, there are many ways to make the program more efficient and effective. Having good critical thinking, problem solving skills, and creative ideas can enable one to enhance the program. Additionally, being meticulous, organized, and efficient will help one effectively run the program.

It is my job to create a harmful algae bloom prevention program. Because I currently am not very knowledgable on harmful algae blooms, I will likely need to do a lot of research and require a lot of support and guidance from the aqua team in the department. In order to create and implement the program, I will need to be proficient on the topic and organized and have critical thinking, analysis, and project management skills.

Getting Ready for My NEPHIP Internship

Getting Ready for My NEPHIP Internship

By Juliet L.

My internship will be in Fairbanks, Alaska, at the Department of Environmental Conservation. I will mainly be working in the Food Safety and Sanitation program.  My work will include filing and distributing temporary food permits, as well as taking phone calls and answering questions for people who call in to the office. Temporary food permits are licenses that allow food vendors to sell to the public with more leniency than a regular permit (for example: distributors don’t need a food handlers card or a permanent establishment). These permits are used for booth-events, like fairs or festivals. I will also work on numerous projects related to the food safety field, like updating the priority list for establishment inspections. Finally, I will assist other departments for site inspections sites like wastewater or drinking water.

I am excited to learn how the environmental health field differs in an area I am not very familiar with. Alaska has a lot of spread out communities that are very hard to access and may be far from any major business hub. These characteristics play a large part in how the food safety office deals with inspection frequencies and risk assessments. I have learned a lot about food safety in the context of a major city like Seattle, so much of the information about Alaskan communities will be new to me. I am a little nervous about what type of work awaits me. I am remaining optimistic, however, and know that each task I am assigned as a learning experience. Everything I learn over these 10 weeks can only serve to help me once I go out into the work force.

A new house being built along the Chena River, outside of Fairbanks. This was during a wastewater inspection to determine that the septic tank/leach field system was set up properly. The T-setup of pipes at the bottom of the picture is set up incorrectly.

I got my internship through the National Environmental Health Association. I heard about it from a previous intern. She had told me how they have an internship program that you can apply to each summer. I started visiting Hayley to have her look over my resume and cover letter, as well as discuss essay prompts. Luckily, all the application materials were written, and there was no interview, which I felt made the application process feel easier compared to other internships.

Meet Our Interns: Scyler L.

I am doing my internship at the Environmental Health and Safety department at UW. I am mentored by a lab compliance specialist, and I will be surveying 500+ labs in 12 weeks. Going into the internship, I had very little prior experience in doing independent projects. Therefore, one thing I want to take away from the internship is how to manage my time, while doing everything to the best of my ability (i.e. balancing between quality and quantity).

12 weeks is such a short time frame, and so I will have to really plan out what I am doing. I will be compiling informations from two different online databases, and putting together schedules so I can email individual lab Principal Investigators (PIs) and chemical hygiene officers (CHOs). Then, I will work on looking for items to put in the gift bags that I will bring for my visit. Following that, I will visit the labs, and spend time on checking their safety signs, asking them questions about the new tool developed (labRAT: risk assessment tool), and explaining to them a contest that is going to take place in December. I will then enter the data collected in an excel sheet. Personally I think planning is a really important skill in my internship, being able to plan out everything and not leave anything out is critical yet challenging for me. Another thing I will remind myself during the lab visits is the 20 minutes may be a very short time in my 12 weeks of internship, but it might be the only time the PI and CHO are going to see me, so whatever I do will have a huge impact on them.

How I Got My Internship by Mariah

Before applying to my internships, I first had multiple people look over my documents I was submitting, mainly my resume and cover letter. I first went to my friends, then my parents, and Hayley to review and help clean up my documents. This really helped my application process.

I started my internship search in September, applying to many positions. I believe I applied to 8 in total. I ended up hearing back from four, two saying I did not get the position and two inviting me for interviews that eventually turned into offers. The internship that I am currently at, Ramboll Environ, actually was an internship for full time winter quarter. I learned that during my interview, and I mentioned to them that I would be willing to work part time during the school year then full time during the summer. They seemed to like that idea, and within two days they contacted me again for a follow up interview for the part time position. The following week I was contacted again saying I got the position, then a month later was given a contract to start part time spring quarter and full time in the summer.

One tip I would give to future students is to start applying early. Many companies take a while to hear back from, but it is nice to get your applications out of the way before midterms or finals take up a lot of your time. Another tip I would give is to apply to many positions and take any opportunity you can get to interview. I didn’t hear back from half of the places I applied to and got rejected from two more. Out of the two interviews I was offered, I decided to take both, as I wanted more interview practice. Interviewing with two organizations helped lessen the pressure and anxiety, and I liked the practice and opportunity of being interviewed by a large company.

How I Got My Internship by Sierra

Managing a job search was different than I thought in the sense that I found many different jobs but I was spent a lot of my time going through job descriptions to make sure that I was qualified. To stay organized, I created a spreadsheet to record when I applied and all of the important details that I didn’t want to forget. Doing this made managing my internship search easier.

The resources that I used were indeed.com and the list of internships on the department’s private website. These two places were where I did the majority of my internship searching. The weekly emails with current internship openings were very helpful as well. I ultimately found my internship from an email that Hayley, the Internship Manager, sent out with the attached forms to fill out for the position.

I didn’t expect to apply to as many internships as I eventually did. Some places I never heard back from, while others were very helpful in giving information about when I would hear back with their decisions. Doing a phone interview was not how I expected. They were very quick and mostly asked the same questions, as well as questions specific to the internship. One question that I would get very often was asking about how my course work in school was preparing me to do the duties that were outlined in the job description. Before each phone interview, I would look over their application description and qualifications. I would also make sure I was familiarized with the objectives of the company as a whole and their mission. I would have both in front of me while I was doing the interview, along with some possible question answers, just in case my mind drew a blank while on the phone. I would say a good tip is to try and take your time because I would get nervous and start talking quickly. To slow myself down or if I needed more time to think of an answer to a question, I would ask them to repeat their question or I would pause and take a deep breath to refocus my mind.

For future students, some things that may be helpful to know are to start applying earlier and know that there are many different internships out there and they will all become available at different times. I recommend going through your job searching resources regularly so that you don’t miss out on good opportunities because some hire interns quickly. I would highly recommend keeping a spreadsheet of the different places that you are intending to apply to and ones that you have already applied to.

Sierra observes a sewage system on a newly built single-family residence.

Overall, I had a positive experience with my internship search, and it prepared me for future searches and helped build my knowledge on what to expect with job interviews and application processes.

Veda: An Informational Interview with a Health and Environmental Investigator

An Informational Interview with a Health and Environmental Investigator

By Veda.

While interning at Public Health – Seattle & King County, I was fortunate enough to shadow professionals in Environmental Health Services. One of these individuals was Kyla, a Health and Environmental Investigator who mainly focused on complaints regarding on-site sewage systems in King County.

Inspection Process

Kyla explained that her process for inspecting a septic tank begins with someone complaining of an odor, sewage above a drain field, or a report from the tank’s maintainer that the system is not working properly. She also communicates with the complainant about the issue. For our first inspection, the complainant was able to take pictures of their neighbor’s property to help pinpoint where the odor and waste appeared to be coming from when she arrived. In addition to bringing the complaint notes and maintainer records, before heading out to the site Kyla also prepares a diagram that includes the septic tank, the property, and structures on the property. Upon arrival, she will try to find the homeowner or a tenant to get permission to enter their property and inspect the tank and drain field. If no one is home, viewing the tank and field can also be done from nearby public land, or by asking the neighboring complainant for permission to view the septic system from their property. During the inspection, she documents odors, the status of the tank, and any effluent seen by taking notes and pictures. If there is possible effluent on the drainage field, green fluorescent dye can be flushed down the toilet and can be seen in the drainage field a few days later to know for sure.

Likes and Dislikes

The most rewarding part of Kyla’s job is being able to assist homeowners and residents with solving their septic tank issues, which can become unpleasant for the residents and people nearby if left untreated. If there is effluent on the drainage field, an unappealing aspect can be the smell and having to walk in the sewage if the case is severe enough. Since the majority of inspections take place on rural land, a downside is that entering large and isolated properties can pose a risk to safety, so site visits are done in pairs. However, visiting rural land for site inspections gives Kyla the opportunity to explore King County and visit forests and farmland, which is a unique aspect of her job.

Future

Septic tank records (otherwise known as “as builts”) are filed on paper or film. While the notes that Kyla makes at the inspection sites get transferred into electronic form, she explained that Public Health plans to store the diagrams electronically in the future as well.

Meet Our Interns: Veda T.

How I Got my Summer Internship

By Veda T.

I began my internship search during fall quarter of the ENV H 480 internship class. While a lot of the internships I found were through searching Google or Indeed, what helped the most was the Undergraduate Internships page on the DEOHS portal website. Accessing this page allowed me to become familiar with the different types of internships in environmental health, and prioritize which ones I wanted to apply to based on their location and deadline. When it came time to apply and fill out the applications, I was surprised by how tedious and repetitive some aspects were. I recommend starting this process as early as possible, and to double check that your answers are appropriately geared for the company or organization you are applying to.

After applying to several internships, the one that I interviewed for first and eventually got was with the Environmental Health Research Experience Program (EHREP). To help prepare for the interview, I spoke with Hayley, the Internship Manager, about what to expect during the interview and to learn a little more about the internship. An integral aspect to getting the internship was expressing my passion for photography when asked if I considered myself creative, and providing some video examples I had made for school projects when I heard that they were looking for someone to produce video content on wildfire smoke.

Screenshot of the smoke video Veda made for PHSKC

When I got my internship, I was placed with Public Health – Seattle & King County, where I produced smoke and heat safety videos in the Preparedness Section. In addition, I was able to shadow environmental health professionals once a week with Environmental Health Services and I also made smoke safety videos for the Washington State Department of Health as well.

Meet Our Interns: Eileen

About My Internship

By Eileen T.

My internship is with an organization called El Centro de la Raza, located in Beacon Hill. During my internship, I will spend the majority of time in Beacon Hill conducting field work and attending monthly meetings with the Beacon Hill Noise Team. I will also be in the UW Environmental Health department when I have weekly meetings with my supervisor.

I have many mentors for this internship. My primary supervisor is Dr. Seto, a professor at the UW, who teaches classes in the DEOHS. During my weekly meetings with Dr. Seto and my partner intern, he assigns us work and checks on the progress on our final project for the internship. Dr. Lorenzana is another mentor who is an adjunct professor at the university. We meet with her during monthly team meetings and she is in charge of sending our checks to us every two weeks. Joe Albert is a veteran volunteer of the project who taught my partner and I how to deploy monitors, enter data into the shared Google drive, and schedule set ups with the residents.

Phan and Eileen in Dr. Seto’s lab

The Beacon Hill Noise project’s goal is to minimize noise pollution in the Beacon Hill area from the planes flying from the SeaTac airport. Many residents have volunteered to host monitors that will capture noise made from the planes. My job as an intern is to schedule and deploy monitors at residents’ homes and analyze data. In addition, it is also my job to compile the data for each resident and send them a summarized report of the data collected from their home. I will also work on an individual project focusing on traffic noise data in the area.

I am most excited to learn about a community-led, grass-roots project and more about environmental justice problems. I was unaware of the noise pollution problem in the Beacon Hill area and it will be interesting to hear how it affects the residents. I think this project is interesting because the community is very involved in attending meetings and having input into the data collection. I would say I am most nervous about if the data collected will be sufficient for real change to occur.

I discovered this internship after I received an email from the department advertising about the opportunity. I sent in my resume and cover letter then was asked to meet for an interview. After I interviewed with Dr. Seto and learned more about the internship, I received an offer for the position.

Rico G.: About My Internship at Clallam County Health and Human Services

About My Internship at Clallam County Health and Human Services

By Rico G.

Since I started interning at Clallam County Health and Human Services, I’ve had the chance to work with my colleagues from nearly every department in the environmental health division. Some fun things I’ve done include going out to the water to collect shellfish, taking water samples on the Olympic Game Farm, and participating in an all-day state partnering session.

Collecting shellfish was great because I was able to spend time out in the sun and on the beach. This is where I fell in love with Port Angeles. The work we do on the beach helps to maintain world-renowned recreational and commercial shellfishing opportunities. This in turn helps boost the local economy through license sales and allows people to spend time by the water and experience what the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Taking water samples at the Olympic Game Farm was great because I got to see and work around the many species of animals they harbor. One of our sample locations was within 10 feet of a grizzly bear enclosure, so the only thing standing between the sample crew and the grizzlies was a 5-foot wire fence and our guide. The work we do around the creeks of the farm also plays an important role in regards to shellfishing. I attended the Clean Water Workgroup Meeting recently and heard that some of the most productive waters in our local bay that have been historically off limits might be re-opened for harvesting in the near future! It’s great to know the work we are doing is making a positive impact.

The state partnering session was a very valuable experience because I learned about specific processes to get work done in the county. People attended from the Washington State Department of Health, Clallam County policy makers, nation-wide building contractors, engineers, and other technicians to collaborate on streamlining the process to renovate the William Shore Aquatic Center. A partnering specialist was hired to facilitate the session, and she mentioned that meetings like this are rather new and uncommon, so the experience was cutting-edge in terms of collaboration. As an intern, I also appreciated the lunch!

My proudest accomplishment during my internship was completely revamping the Clallam County shellfish page. It took many hours of study and collaboration with others in the county and throughout the state to produce the most comprehensive, accurate, and user-friendly web experience that I could.

I’ve also worked on a project to assess the wildfire smoke health-risk communication needs of Clallam County organizations serving vulnerable populations.

In order to make this an awesome experience, I needed my knowledge from UW, as well as a willingness to try new things and push to find relevant environmental health activities.

During my internship, I received support from many people: it came from my housing hosts who were very accommodating to all my living needs; from my Environmental Health Director and EHREP program coordinators who officially instated me as an intern; from my UW Career Services and Internship Manager who provided guidance to all UW EH interns on how to make the most out of the experience; from the wonderful, intelligent, talented staff I worked alongside; from the partners of Clallam County including the locals, the state, and our national funding partners whose support makes our work possible; and my family who helps to support my housing in Seattle.