I learned so much interviewing Marta about her position at the EPA, I decided to sit down with another EPA employee, Amy Mucha.
What is your position at the EPA?
I am an Environmental scientist and project manager in the Great Lakes National Program Office. I get to use a variety of skills in my job which is developing, designing and managing projects to clean up the worst areas of the Great Lakes.
What is a typical day like for you?
My day is usually a combination of reviewing data; meetings/conference calls to coordinate my projects and all the activities related to it; communicating with various stakeholders including members of the public, states, industries and academia; working on funding issues like contracts and interagency agreements.
What is the best part of your job?
That my work has impact – I help clean up the Great Lakes! Knowing I’m doing my part to aid in such a great effort is very satisfying. In addition, there is often field work as well and our program has its own sampling vessel, called the Mudpuppy II, and I usually spend a week or two each year in the field taking samples.
Did you always have an interest in the environment?
Not always – I’ve always had an interest in science though. My training was in basic science when I went to a Federal Government job fair and I applied to work at the EPA. Being at EPA meant that I could apply that training to real world situations which I enjoy and that really developed my interest in the environment. Now it’s hard to imagine working in another area, environmental work really involves so many disciplines and ‘puzzles’ to solve.
What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?
Besides my lab training in basic science I also have a PhD in environmental toxicology; so I’ve taken many classes over the years. The most directly useful classes were my graduate levels statistics classes and organic chemistry – I still use a great deal of those skills now in analyzing data and assessing my sites. However, the practical work that went into completing my theses – where I learned experimental design and how to address key research questions -was what gave me critical skill of building an analytical framework for problem solving. That ability still helps me tremendously in how I do my job every day.
Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?
Get involved in a project you care about, whether it’s recycling, environmental justice, urban gardens, climate change, or saving the Great Lakes. The key is to grow your passion – from that it will be clear what training you need to take you where you want to go.
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.