scientist

Career Advice from Amy

By: Kelly Siegel

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.

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.

Career Advice from Marta

Marta Fuoco

By: Kelly Siegel

When I was young I always had an interest in the environment.  Every summer, my family would take vacations to Bayfield, Wisconsin, a small town on Lake Superior.  I loved swimming in Lake Superior and being able to see the sand bottom.  Bayfield is also home to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  This is a special place to me, and a place that I hope can be preserved forever. 

Now, that I am interning at the Environmental Protection Agency, I see firsthand what goes into protecting our environment and national treasures like the Apostle Islands.  I wanted to learn more about specific careers at the EPA, so I sat down with Marta Fuoco to learn more about her job.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a Senior Scientist in the Air and Radiation Division in the Air Monitoring and Analysis Section.

What is a typical day like for you?

Typically, my day includes data analysis of criteria and toxic pollutants – specifically hydrogen sulfide and methane.

What is the best part of your job?

I get to work with a great set of knowledgeable coworkers who share many of the same interests.  In addition, it is a great feeling to see measureable results that positively impact the health and environment of the communities that we work with.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

I have always had an interest in the environment, but more specifically on the public health side.  My deeper interest came from the classes I took in graduate school.

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

I use skills from the many classes I’ve taken, going as far back as high school, such as chemistry and math, as well as information from graduate school classes, such as industrial hygiene, environmental and occupational health, and statistics.

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

Start small!  Pay attention to what you do on a daily basis in your own life.  Take the necessary steps to recycle or use green products and observe how the environment affects your health.  Look out for Air Quality Action Days and respond accordingly to help protect the environment.

 

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.

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.

Looking For A Few Good Scientists

video imageHave you ever wondered what you could be when you grow up? How about working for EPA?  Check out one of EPA’s ocean scientists at work: Renee Searfoss.  Learn about her job and how she first became inspired to become an EPA scientist on EPA’s You Tube channel.

Go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHj-337Y1f4

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She is currently pursuing a dual graduate degree at DePaul University.

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.

When Indoor Air Becomes Personal: One Scientist's Personal Journey, Struggles With Indoor Air Quality

Improving the quality of life for people, especially those disproportionately impacted by disease, the environment, poverty or other life circumstances is one of the basic goals I always work to accomplish with my social, academic and professional pursuits. Along with this goal, I have tried to choose activities that are in line with the principles that my parents taught. These include the importance of faith, importance of family, hard work, honesty, manners, sharing, respecting all people, remembering where you come from and that you are standing on someone’s shoulders with each upward step. In addition, they instilled in me the rule to first do no harm, never taking anything or anyone for granted, and take time to enjoy life and all you do with it. All of these ideals and goals have led me down many interesting paths including my current path in EPA’s Indoor Environments Division, better known as IED. My work here not only has the potential to help improve the quality of life for people, including those disproportionately impacted, but also depends on many of the principles I was taught as a child.

IED is a non-regulatory part of EPA with the mission to improve indoor environmental quality and its impact on health and well-being of indoor occupants. Many times, the people we serve are not aware that their problems might stem from things in the indoors or they don’t know how to address or mitigate issues or how to help themselves live healthier lives indoors. Others need help in building or modifying buildings to protect from potential indoor air quality problems in the future. Since we do not regulate and cannot force by legal statutes people to change, it is important that we not only have strong credible science behind our messages, but that we use all of the basic principles I was taught by my parents to motivate change.

Combining my academic training in chemistry, mathematics, and public health with my interest in theater and the arts, as part of the science team in IED, I get a chance to not only review and analyze the science but identify where there are gaps in what we know. I also get to work on projects that impact everyday consumers just like me and my family. I get to be on stage when I provide outreach through public speaking and with the help of some very talented artists and public relation specialist create public documents to spread our messages. One of my primary areas of focus is pollutants and sources with a special emphasis on consumer products and building materials. I really enjoy this work because I am getting to research and address issues (all the techie stuff I love) but also input into the awareness and understanding of the everyday person like myself and my family. I often get to talk to teachers like the ones who work in my son’s school or elderly people like my mother, or homeowners like my husband and I who just want to understand and know how to make good choices for our family’s air quality and health.

People spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors where some contaminant levels may be much higher than they are outdoors. All of us can be impacted by what we breathe inside of our homes, cars and workspaces. It can be very simple in most cases to control our exposure through source control and ventilation with fresh outdoor air, but most of us do not know enough about the potential problems or how to mitigate effectively. I encourage you to discover more about your indoor environment, what you might be breathing, and how you can limit any potential harm from indoor air quality concerns by visiting EPA’s Indoor Environments Web site.

About the author: Laureen Burton works as a chemist and toxicologist in EPA’s Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, Indoor Environments Division. Since 1997, she has worked not only to advance the science behind indoor air quality, but also to increase the public’s understanding of the indoor environment and how it can impact the health and comfort of people.

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.

Year of Science Question of the Month: If you could be any type of scientist, what kind would you be and why?

For each month in 2009, the Year Of Science, we will pose a question related to science. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas.

Ponder. Observe and discover. We are all born scientists, naturally curious to figure out more about the world around us: how we affect the environment, and how the environment affects us.
2009 is the Year Of Science.

If you could be any type of scientist, what kind would you be and why?

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.