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.
Being an Intern at a Local Health Department
By Antonia R.
This summer, I am interning at St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMHD), in Maryland. I am one of the National Environmental Health Association interns and in my application, I talked about the importance of water quality in a community, focusing on arsenic in drinking water. Throughout my internship, I will work on what is known as the “Arsenic Project.” I will also have the opportunity to shadow various members of the Health Department.
For the first part of the project, I will work with ArcGIS, a mapping program, to map out arsenic levels throughout the county. St. Mary’s County is mostly rural and most of its inhabitants obtain their water from private wells. The SMHD must take water samples from any new or restored wells and then test for bacteria, nitrate, turbidity, and arsenic levels. Upon completion of the tests, the Environmental Health Department may grant the water a Certificate of Potability. In my project, I will use the data collected throughout the years via such testing, and then apply it on a map of the county. Then I will use a gradient to indicate the level of arsenic in response to the Maximum Contaminant Level discovered at a specific location.
Antonia at her desk.
The project has two main goals: to develop a model that shows arsenic levels against soil elevation and to identify hotspots of arsenic concentration to improve resource allocation from the Health Department. To achieve the goals, I will collaborate with St. Mary’s County IT support team to learn about ArcGIS in more detail and to develop the elevation map that I need, as well as meet with the Health Department’s epidemiologist to develop the algorithm that will model the high arsenic hotspots. This is a relatively new technology for SMHD, therefore I need the professional help of the IT department.
In addition to the main goals, we intend to educate home-owners about the effects of high arsenic concentration in drinking water and about arsenic removal methods. My mentor and I decided to modify existing documents for homeowners to make them more persuasive to the public. In this part of the project, I will apply my written communication skills in relation to the risk perception of the home owners and of the people living throughout the county.
This project is a great opportunity to apply a multi-faceted approach to solving the problem of arsenic in the county drinking water. We hope that we will be able to identify an efficient manner to allocate resources and to reach the community so that they will collaborate with the Health Department in addressing the treatment of their water.
About My Internship With The WHO
By Yarrow L.
The main project I will focus on for the duration of my internship is a comprehensive literature review and data collection of log reduction values for various different treatment technologies for drinking water, in order to provide data for the newest edition of the World Health Organization Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality. Specifically, I will work on table 7.7 in the guidelines, which pertains to the reduction of bacteria, viruses and protozoa achieved by water treatment technologies at drinking-water treatment plants for large communities. The most recent, fourth edition, guidelines were based purely on “expert opinion” data and did not consider the plethora of data from peer-reviewed studies from all around the world, which the updated edition will do. The table is broken down into treatment processes, including pretreatment, coagulation flocculation and sedimentation, filtration like membrane filtration or granular filtration, and primary disinfection like chlorine, ozone, or UV. For each treatment process, the log reduction value is given for bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
So far, this task has required a lot of concentration and organizational skills. Tools like Zotero, a reference database, and Web Plot digitizer, a tool for extracting values from graphs, are very helpful in this process. The data I extract is entered into an excel spreadsheet, which will later be put into another database with all the data for the project. I have never seen an excel sheet this large, and in order for the data to be kept neat and decipherable, the spreadsheet must be very organized, which for me includes color coding (yay!). My background in microbiology, and environmental health in general, has made it much easier to understand the studies I am examining.
The main support I will need from my coworkers for this project is assistance in making judgement calls on different studies, and maybe some help with calculations for log reduction values or CT values for example. On my first day, I got an extensive orientation of the project and the different tools like Zotero that will be vital for the project, but for the most part I think it will be fairly independent with as much or as little help and support as I end up requiring. The two other people working directly with me have both been very helpful and will be able to give me support when I need it.