Tag Archives: internship

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.

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.

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.

Logan D.: About My Swim Beach Monitoring Internship

About My Swim Beach Monitoring Internship

By Logan D.

Throughout my internship, I worked on many projects in various realms of environmental public health.  My main duty is to sample the three designated swim beaches in Clark County, which are Battle Ground Lake, Klineline Pond, and Vancouver Lake.  In addition to routine sampling for E. coli, I am also a member of the team that conducts waterborne illness investigations within the county, a task that happened frequently during the last weeks of my internship.  I also sample for cyanobacteria and any other waterborne pathogens recommended by the Washington Department of Health.  When I was not in the field, I created a recreational waterborne illness toolkit to be used in outbreak situations in order to guide the person investigating. I used various resources to gain the information I needed for this project, from contacting the Washington Public Health Lab Waterborne Illness Coordinator, to perusing the CDC website for information on pathogens. The last of my initial projects was to design and create content for a newsletter that will be used by the food safety team to inform owners and operators about the best practices to keep the public healthy.

Sampling Vancouver Lake for cyanobacteria.

As my internship progressed, I did a lot more sampling and investigations than I had expected. I also gained a new project analyzing the E. coli data for trends that caused higher plate counts. This caused me to be in direct contact with the program manager of the Parks and Recreation Department, as well as many other employees who worked at Klineline pond, where my research is focused.  The results that I find at the conclusion of my internship will then be used to create a better monitoring plan for Klineline, as well as give Public Health an idea of when higher results are more likely to occur.

To complete my many projects, I need the organizational skills that will allow me to work on all of them throughout the course of my internship, as well as the ability to make a detailed plan.  There was also a technical demand involved; I had to learn how to sample both E. coli and cyanobacteria, as well as increase my proficiency in EXCEL to analyze my data.  To get the guidance and information that I needed, I used my communication skills both within the department as well as other agencies.  When I had questions, I mainly contacted the Swim Beach Supervisor (as well as the other members of the Water Recreation Team at Clark County Public Health), the Director of Water Recreation at the DOH, and the Waterborne Illness Coordinator at the Washington Public Health Labs.  Overall, there was a lot expected of me and I am happy to say that I did my best and learned a lot from working as the Swim Beach Intern at Clark County Public Health.

Meet Our Interns: Mostafa E.

About My Internship at L&I

By Mostafa E.

As my internship experience proceeds, I look forward to meeting more people from different departments and conducting as many informational interviews as I can. One of my main focuses is trying to understand the details of various positions within the agency to hopefully find something that may fit my current goals and interests. I think that I am progressing in this particular focus and being very proactive with all the work that I do at my internship. I scheduled a “ride-along” later this week with an Industrial Hygienist within the compliance sector, a field that I am currently interested in learning more about. This newly found interest led me to conduct more research on the various master’s programs within Occupational Health, and I am considering graduate school to gain a better specialization within this discipline.

My current projects and tasks have been fairly broad as a result of working with various coworkers within the standards program. Most of the work I accomplished consisted of comparison and analyses documents that are required at different milestones of a project, mostly toward the end. Depending on the length of the amended rules, this task could get monotonous; however, it helps me become accustomed to the language style of rule writing. Another exciting project that I am currently working on is updating the asbestos removal and encapsulation rule. There is plenty of new and existing scientific evidence of the health outcomes from asbestos exposure, therefore it is crucial to modernize the rule so that it reflects the EPA model accreditation plan. These updates will maintain the level of expertise from the workers and supervisors who are trained to remove and encapsulate asbestos. Working on this project also gave me insight into the logic behind the technical services in DOSH. As we meet to manage the project, I learn the reasons behind the specific changes that are made for the benefit of the workers. One example is the added requirement of a refresher course after the expiration of certificates, allowing the supervisor and worker to restore and update their knowledge on safe asbestos handling.

Tackling Silica Exposures in the Workplace – ERC Trainee Interns at Local Foundry

Tackling Silica Exposures in the Workplace – ERC Trainee Interns at Local Foundry

On June 23, 2018 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule on respirable crystalline silica – a dangerous particle present in many construction, maritime, and general industry workplaces across the nation.

Silica01Inhaling very small, or “respirable”, silica particles is known to cause multiple, serious diseases including silicosis, lung cancer, COPD, and kidney disease. It has also been listed by the American Cancer Society, World Health Organization, and the National Institutes of Health as a known human carcinogen. Yet, up until recently, workplace health and safety standards for occupational exposure to respirable silica offered very minimal protection to workers.

In light of the recently issued final rule, and mounting evidence of the negative health effects of respirable silica exposure, companies nation-wide are revamping their safety procedures, implementing engineering controls and offering higher levels of protection to their employees.

One such company is a local investment casting foundry, SeaCast Inc., where Exposure Sciences Master’s Student, Robert Vannice, has been working as an intern as part of his training through the Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NWCOHS) Education and Research Center (ERC). Robert’s work with SeaCast Inc. is to help develop engineering and administrative controls to lower worker’s exposure to respirable crystalline silica, with the overall goal of eliminating the required use of respiratory protection by the workers.

metal pouring in casting line productionIn a foundry setting, workers are exposed to silica during the process of removing cooled metal from casting shells. After metal has been poured into casting shells and has cooled, the shell needs to be removed from the metal. The removal of the shell is primarily conducted by a pneumatic knock-off hammer that vibrates the shell off of the metal casting. “This process produces respirable crystalline silica dust, and my project is to design effective engineering and administrative controls to bring worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica below the permissible exposure limit, and hopefully below the action limit” explains Robert.

As a company with a reputation for safety, and a long-standing relationship with the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, SeaCast was enthusiastic in bringing Robert on as an intern. Jerry McCaslin, Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Manger, serves as Robert’s internship mentor, helping Robert tackle the silica problem and practice his real-world environmental health and safety (EHS) skills.

IMG_2600“My role was to design, from scratch, a local exhaust ventilation system with integrated dust collection system to capture respirable crystalline silica from two sources and draw it away from the worker, and reduce or eliminate levels of respirable silica from being discharged into the atmosphere outside the foundry, along with a reduction of noise exposure to the foundry workers” explains Robert. His work is guided by four key aims: evaluate baseline respirable crystalline silica exposures through air monitoring and analysis of previous air monitoring data, design exposure controls for crystalline silica and noise, evaluate the exposure controls, and finally, develop a silica exposure control plan.

In addition to designing the new exhaust ventilation system, Robert has had the opportunity to practice his other EHS skills during his internship. As an intern, Robert has experienced the day-to-day life of an EHS professional by conducting emergency response training with employees, performing weekly EHS inspections, calibrating equipment, and coordinating and facilitating safety committee meetings. He has also been involved in performing ergonomic assessments, managing hazardous waste generation, storage, and disposal, and sampling for hazards including silica, noise, welding fumes, and hexavalent chromium.

“The most interesting thing that I have discovered so far is the complexity and operations in the fields of environmental, health, and safety,” says Robert, “My internship advisor, Jerry McCaslin, and my project advisor, Marty Cohen, have been extremely supportive in my work, and I have also had the opportunity to work alongside experienced engineering professionals who have been mentors to me in many aspects of this project. This internship has provided me with the opportunities to directly apply the skills and knowledge I learned as an ERC trainee in Exposure Sciences, resulting in better health and safety protections for workers.”

To learn more about academic training programs through the University of Washington’s Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety please visit: deohs.washington.edu/nwcohs