Tag Archives: 2018

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.

Meet Our Interns: Nikki N.

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.

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.