Skip to content

Career Advice from Mary Pat

2013 June 11

marypat

At school, we are constantly given assignments to work in groups.  Often it is not the subject matter that makes the projects hard, but it is the coordinating of all the group members.  I wanted to get the perspective of an EPA employee who is tasked with coordinating a variety of people, so I sat down with Mary Pat Tyson. 

 

What is your position at the EPA?

I am the Branch Chief of the Air Toxics and Assessment Branch.  I manage three different sections: Toxics and Global Atmosphere, Indoor and Voluntary Programs, and Air Monitoring and Analysis Sections.  

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

During college I worked in a laboratory analyzing water samples for a drinking water project.  During that time I became aware of the EPA and different programs.  I started at the EPA in the Superfund Division working on hazardous waste site cleanup.  I moved on to a Branch Chief position in the Water Division where I worked on planning and grants along with the tribal programs.

What is a typical day like for you?

On a typical day I come in, check my email, and then meetings start.  Around 8, I have people in and out of my office for the rest of the day.  I have meetings with my boss, the section chiefs, and different state agencies.  I am also the President of the Federal Managers Association for EPA and work on issues that are of interest to federal managers.

What is the best part of your job?

Getting work done!  Getting to know the people and the work that excites them.  I love hearing about their work and helping out where I can.  In my role, I get to help people achieve their highest potential.  I enjoy communicating with section chiefs to make sure we have a strong team. 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

I grew up in the city.  I enjoyed playing at parks, but never really was a nature person.  In high school a teacher suggested I study engineering because I was good at math and science.  This eventually led to me focusing in on studying environmental engineering.

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

I took some practical classes about project management with teams.  Those have been very useful on the job.  In addition, math, science, and chemistry classes are always important.

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

There are so many clubs and organizations to get involved with and learn about the environment.  Every neighborhood has opportunities to do your part.  In addition, the web is an info explosion!  You can learn how to start a compost pile in your backyard from a website.  It is important to stay close to the earth.  Take science and math classes.  The opportunities are endless!

 

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 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.

A Green Summer

2013 June 6

summer

Summer has always been my favorite season.  Not only is my birthday in the summer, but summer meant no school, the beach, and hanging out with friends.  Summer is also a great time to go green.  Here are a few tips to make your summer vacation green!

Look up your nearest farmers market and try out some local food, meet new people, and find some pretty neat things. 

  1. Ride your bike!  The weather is too nice to be stuck inside a stuffy car.
  2. Have a picnic with your friends.  Make sure to throw away or recycle all your trash.
  3. Stay local – I am sure there are many fun activities around your town that will result in a low environmental impact.  Go to the zoo, check out the beach, or visit a park!
  4. Conserve water.  Who cares if your grass isn’t the greenest on the block, at least you are saving water.
  5. Get outdoors!  The summer is no time for video and computer games.  Grab friends to play a pickup basketball or soccer game!

 What other green activities do you have planned for the summer?  Don’t forget to put on the SPF!

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 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.

Building the Zephyr Wind Turbine

2013 June 5

Eco_Club_005[1]

When I entered Mahtomedi High School as a freshman, I wanted to join a club. I quickly realized that we didn’t have any clubs related to sustainability or the environment. I knew that several of my friends shared my interest, so I asked my friend, Spencer Legred, if he wanted to help get a club started. As freshman, we became the co-presidents of the Mahtomedi High School Eco Club. We have continued to meet every other Friday morning before school and consistently have had a group of about 15 students of all grades participating.

Fortunately for the Eco Club, there was a group in our community called the Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative that was very interested in working with us. The year we started, we found out that they were striving to put up a wind turbine in Mahtomedi near the high school. We thought it was a great idea, especially since our school mascot is the Zephyrs, and they were excited to have high school students get involved in the project. Not only would the students be enthused about something in our first year as a club, but we could also show the community that the issue was indeed important to the youth of our community.

We really got engaged in the project by selling t-shirts, designed by one of our members, to promote and raise money for the wind turbine. We attended sporting events, community festivals, the local farmers market and anywhere else we could find to try and raise awareness of the project in the community and raise money. Many of us that had been together in girls scouts even donated several hundred dollars that we had made over the years selling cookies. Altogether, our club directly raised almost $2,000 for the project and inspired dozens of community members and businesses to donate and raise the $100,000 needed for the project to be completed.

In 2011, the summer after my sophomore year, the community was able to install a 10 kilowatt wind turbine in our newly renovated stadium. Our Zephyr Wind Turbine is now an icon of the sustainability efforts happening in our community and a learning tool in our classes and for everyone that visits our school. I have continued to lead the Eco Club with Spencer all four years of our high school careers as we have tackled other smaller projects to help make our school more sustainable. The Mahtomedi Eco Club is very excited to be receiving the 2012 President’s Environmental Youth Award for all of our efforts.

Katie Ledermann is graduating from Mahtomedi High School in 2013 and will be attending the University of Minnesota – Morris to pursue degrees in environmental studies and management. She hopes to one day own and manage a sustainable business.

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.

Career Advice from Greg

2013 June 4

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 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.