water samples

Career Advice from Greg

Greg

In high school I always enjoyed the science classes where we got to work in the lab and do experiments.  In college, I further explored this interest in college and worked in a horticulture lab, testing horseradish tissue cultures.  Because of these interests I wanted to visit the EPA Lab.  I was lucky enough to meet with Greg Mitsakopoulos and get a tour of the Chicago Regional Laboratory. 

 What is your position at the EPA?

I’m a trace metals chemist at the Chicago Regional Laboratory (CRL).  Besides sample analysis, I provide technical direction and evaluation of the work products produced by the Region 5 contractor analyzing samples from Superfund sites.  I am also “Group Leader” for two other chemists performing trace metals analysis at CRL.

 Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

While a student, I participated in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s cooperative education program which led me to a Quality Assurance laboratory position at a Fortune 500 company.  There I gained experience in instrumental analysis which I believe factored into why I was selected.

What is a typical day like for you?

Many days I analyze water, soil and waste samples and produce reports on low-level metals content from a variety of EPA programs, using state of the art instrumentation.  We often measure to the part per billion (ppb) or part per million (ppm) level.  Measurements to these small amounts are needed to protect human health and the environment.  One ppb is approximately one drop of water in an Olympic-size pool!  There are ten thousand ppm in one percent.  The data I produce is used to evaluate site cleanup, to evaluate compliance with permits, to study lakes and rivers, to support enforcement, and even to support criminal investigations.  Besides analysis, other interesting projects come up.  Recently, I was on a panel to evaluate proposals from companies wishing to be on the next Superfund contract.  The Superfund contract is a very competitive, highly selective multimillion dollar contract.

What is the best part of your job?

Being able to help others at the level of the individual or of society, whether it’s producing data that will be used to protect the health of Americans, or helping others in the laboratory get the most out of our laboratory information management system.  A good part of job satisfaction comes from the people I work with everyday.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

A book I read in childhood about “the future” painted some predictions about acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and air pollution.  These struck a chord within me.  So I was aware and concerned about of some of the world’s environmental ills early on.

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

I would say they all helped to some extent, as good “brain training”.  Math is a must- not for the sake of math- without it one would be lost in the laboratory.  Chemistry has had the most direct bearing, and has provided me with concepts and practice central to my work.  Along with chemistry, physics is useful in understanding how scientific instrumentation works.  English class- it’s good to be able to express yourself clearly in writing.

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

If you’re interested in protecting our environment, take classes in chemistry, math and physics.  These will arm you with basic concepts to understand present and emerging environmental concerns such as global warming and the mining of natural gas by hydrofracking.  Although the future may seem far-off now, it comes quickly and you are the future, so take care to begin shaping the world, or prepare your ability to shape it one day.  Your world will be well-served when you and its citizens are able to understand our effects on it.

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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Test. Share. Protect. World Water Monitoring Day 2012!

World Water Monitoring DayBy Trey Cody

Did you ever wonder how information is gathered on the condition of our streams, lakes, estuaries, and coastal waters?  Or how we know whether it is safe to use these waters for drinking or recreational activities like fishing, swimming, and boating?

September 18th is your day to not only ask these questions, but to get out and be involved in the data collection yourself… because September 18th is World Water Monitoring Day!

You don’t have to consider yourself a scientist to help keep tabs on the health of your local watershed.  As part of World Water Monitoring Day, you can do your own monitoring tests and enter your results into an international database.  Simple monitoring kits are available for purchase by anyone interested in participating.

The health of our water bodies is important more than just one day per year, which is why the World Water Monitoring Day Challenge runs annually from March 22nd (the United Nations’ World Water Day) until December 31st. Events are held, and tests can be conducted and results submitted at any time. The purpose of the challenge is to encourage people everywhere to TEST the quality of their waterways, SHARE their findings, and PROTECT our most precious resource.

Watch this video for background on the event and to learn how to test for the four indicators (Turbidity, pH, Temperature, and Dissolved Oxygen) of the World Water Monitoring Day Challenge.  By just testing these four parameters – and it’s easy to do – we can learn a lot about the health of our waterways.

There are lots of materials out there to help you learn more about the importance of water monitoring. EPA’s Monitoring and Assessing Water Quality page and other outreach materials can help get people excited about water quality.

So get out and assess your waters!  Tell us about your water monitoring experiences and what you found in your data collection.

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of September will focus on Action and Education.

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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Being Bold

By Pooja Shah

Summer interns sometimes get to do amazing things, and a recent task I was assigned is an example. A recent Monday morning found me, anxious and excited, at Riverbank State Park, in New York City, onboard to help the crew of the EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel Bold. My assignment was to take visitors on tours through OSV Bold during several days when it was open to the public.

OSV Bold is EPA’s coastal and ocean observation ship. The mission of OSV Bold is to collect samples to help analyze the effects of man’s activities on ocean and coastal waters. Formerly owned by the U.S. Navy, the OSV Bold was used as an intelligence gathering vessel during the Cold War. Now, the ship has been completely converted to support the crew and scientific equipment needed for her mission.

Arguably even better than its history and technology, the OSV Bold contains, in my opinion, the best crew out there. I haven’t been on many ships before and certainly never any ocean survey vessels, so maybe I’m not speaking from much experience. Still, when you’ve got a crew that is caring, friendly, and committed to their work, you’ve got a team that’s one-of-a-kind. A team that’s Bold.

But that’s not even my favorite part. The best part of my day was being able to show other people everything the OSV Bold had to offer. From explaining her fascinating history to children and seeing their expressions to watching as the crew demonstrated her sample collecting equipment and the computer images they generate, OSV Bold took on a new meaning for me as I proudly became a part of her family for two days.

Perhaps the Bold was given her name because of her incredible and dangerous past. Or perhaps because her crew performs tasks everyday that help make our water better and better – no small feat. In the end, being aboard the OSV Bold, means being bold yourself.

Read more about OSV BOLD

About the Author: Pooja Shah is a Public Affairs Summer Intern for the EPA Region 2. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Economics at the George Washington University.

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.

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.

To Bold’ly Go Where No Ship Has Ever Gone Before

Click here to watch the video!The flagship of the EPA is gearing up for battle to keep our nation’s coastal waters clean! That’s right – the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Bold turned Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is EPA’s only ocean and coastal monitoring vessel. Designed to meet sampling and data analysis needs, the OSV Bold is outfitted with state-of-the art equipment used to collect water and sediment samples. These can be processed and analyzed in onboard laboratories or later onshore.

Click on the picture to watch a video overview of the OSV Bold. On that site you’ll find more videos and more info! We currently have Region 3 Water Protection Division employees aboard so stay tuned for narratives of life on the OSV Bold!

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.