Environmental Scientist

Career Advice from Carolyn

I have been amazed at all the different careers available at the EPA, and I have barely touched the surface!  I recently sat down with Carolyn Bury who is a Project Manager in a program I had never even heard of at the EPA.  It is great to know there are so many positions for all types of people who are interested in protecting the environment.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am an Environmental Scientist.   My role is Project Manager in the Resource Conservation Recovery Act Corrective Action program which is an environmental remediation program.  I oversee the cleanup of hazardous wastes at the facilities which are under our jurisdiction.

Do you have prior work experience that has helped you here?

I have worked in three different programs at the EPA.  Everything I have done at the EPA has helped with my current position.  In addition, before the EPA, I worked as a forester for the US Forest Service, where I did environmental assessment work, vegetation surveys, timber sales and outreach.  I spent a lot of time in the field which I loved. 

What is a typical day like for you?

On a typical day I am reading, writing, and talking on the phone.  I review technical documents like sampling and analysis work plans for soil, water, sediment, etc, environmental data from the sampling events, and proposed remedies.  In our program we do a lot of negotiations with companies regarding how the environmental investigations are conducted, how data is interpreted, and what the significance of the data is in terms of risk to people and ecological receptors like wildlife and plants.

What is the best part of your job?

I am never bored!  That is my main criterion for a job.  There is always something new and different to do, with no lag time.  There is a lot of work, but it’s all interesting work.  I am currently working on six sites and each has its own set of circumstances and personality.  In addition, I like my coworkers a lot and the environment of the EPA.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

Yes, I did.  Back in high school I helped start one of the first recycling programs and was involved in a small environmental club.  I was caught up in the 70’s save the earth movement.    However, I did not have much guidance on what to do in college, so I did not take environmental courses until I met a forestry major in college.

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

I majored in Forest Ecology with a Spanish minor.  I took many courses that help me on the job today.  These include watershed management, soil science, GIS, hydrogeology, chemistry, and technical writing.  In addition, all of the ecology courses have helped me as well.

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

I advise anyone to pursue what they are really interested in.  It is a misconception that you need a specific degree to get a certain job.  You never know what an employer is really looking for so it would be a mistake to assume that you have to major in a field you don’t really like to get your dream job (usually)  Get a good education and study what you are passionate about!

 

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Women in Science: Kesha Forrest — Environmental Science and Policy is in my DNA

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Kesha Forrest

That’s me in the photo, early on in my graduate studies at Howard University, standing in a lab of the Howard University Cancer Center. It was the first time I’d ever attempted to “extract” DNA…and it was cool. I was rocking the sample tubes, watching these unwound chromosomes like thread going through water and thinking “wow, that’s the stuff that makes us so different and so alike.” It was one of those “aha” moments.

Just months before, in search of the graduate program that was right for me, I approached the director of the Howard University microbiology department, who had lots of ideas on how to help me. She suggested I work part-time on an ongoing cancer research project, in a lab at the Howard University Cancer Center. One of my first jobs was to help analyze blood samples for an African-American prostate cancer study. Later, I helped analyze West African blood samples for the National Human Genome Center at Howard that focused on the genetics of diabetes, a disease common to African Americans and West African ancestral populations. It was great to get my head out of the books and into the real world of science.

Fast forwarding several years with my masters degree in genetics behind me, I now have my own job in the real world of science. I work in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, helping to determine if there are contaminants in drinking water that may be harmful to human health. More recently I have been focused on contaminants that could affect our body’s main regulatory system, known as the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates growth, development and other functions with natural chemicals called hormones. Chemicals in the environment can sometimes “mimic” or act like hormones, which may have negative effects on humans. We work to make sure none of these chemicals are a problem in drinking water.

I love working with fellow scientists that are some of the best in their fields. As I did with my mentors and advisors in graduate school, I take every chance I can to learn from them.

Here at the Agency, we use science to shape policies that protect human health and the environment. One of my career goals is to shape policies that directly consider both genetics and the environment. For now, I’m more than happy to focus on helping to keep America’s drinking water clean and safe.

About the author: Kesha Forrest works in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and continues to expand her knowledge with classes in public health and environmental policy

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.