careers

Explore Environmental Careers with EPA’s Park(ing) Day Parklet!

By Christina Catanese

One of the most rewarding parts about working in the environmental field is getting out of the office and having the chance to talk to people about what I do.  And getting to do it in a unique, creative way that inspires others to make a difference in our communities?  Even better.

EPA employees hard at work at our Park(ing) Day parklet - under construction!

EPA employees hard at work at our Park(ing) Day parklet – under construction!

This year, EPA Region 3 employees will present a Park(ing) Day site in Philadelphia, an event that embodies this unique blend of outreach and creativity in urban public spaces.

Park(ing) Day is a national event held on the third Friday in September.  This annual event converts metered parking spaces into temporary parklets throughout the city.  Park(ing) Day re-imagines the possibilities of 170 square feet of public space, celebrates parks and public spaces nationwide, and raises awareness of the need for more pedestrian-friendly spaces in urban areas.

I look forward to Park(ing) Day every year, because I can’t wait to see what people come up with in their mini-park displays.  I love seeing parks that use old or conventional materials in a new way.  Some advocate for a cause or particular issue, while others simply provide a place to sit, catch your breath, and watch the hustle and bustle of the city go by for a bit.  A number of my colleagues and I were so inspired by what we saw, we just had to join in for this year’s event.

EPA’s parklet will focus on highlighting the diversity of careers and people who pursue them in the environmental field, especially careers at EPA.  Our site uses a stylized form of a branching river to demonstrate the different paths an environmental career can take, as well as actions that people in any career can take to help protect the environment.

But I can’t give away too much… you’ll have to come see our parklet for yourself!  Find us at the southwest corner of 34th and Walnut Streets in West Philadelphia on Friday, September 20th between the hours of 8am and 4pm.  And check out this interactive map to find other parklets throughout the city!

Have you experienced Park(ing) Day in Philly, or somewhere else?  What other ways can we re-imagine our urban spaces?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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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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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Career Advice from Yvette

yvette-panda

I am always very happy when I come across an easy to use, pleasantly appealing website.  I never really think about all that goes into creating this website.  I sat down with Yvette Pina to learn more about her work for the EPA’s web pages.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a Visual Information Specialist.  I work on the web team to create and maintain web pages.

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

I have a degree in Chemistry, with an emphasis on computational chemistry, which is chemistry combined with computer science.  I started at the EPA as a Field Chemist Intern.  I always had a knack for computers, so after my internship I applied to be a Computer Technician.

What is a typical day like for you?

Every day I check the news and events page to make sure everything is up-to-date.  Region 5 has a web support email which we manage as best as we can.  We handle cases of high priority first and then respond to requests as they come in.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is when people are satisfied with their web pages.  It is great to know people are content and like the way the web pages look.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

None what so ever.  I didn’t even know what the EPA was!  I applied with a job through the Department of Justice and they connected me with the EPA.  However, since coming to the EPA my interest has grown and I have learned so much.  It’s hard not to.

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

I took lots of computer programming classes.  I have always had an interest and knack for computers, even in high school when computers were new.

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

Pursue your interests.  Figure out what motivates you.  What piques your curiosity?  Follow that!

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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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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Career Advice from Paisly

By: Kelly Siegel

I am currently taking a GIS class as part of my Masters program.  I am learning so many GIS skills, I decided to sit down with GIS Specialist, Paisly Di Bianca, turn learn how these skills could turn into a career.  After hearing more about Paisly’s career, I decided to take an intermediate GIS course next semester!

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a GIS Specialist. GIS is Geographic Information Systems. It is used to analyze and display spatial data.

What is a typical day like for you?

I don’t have a typical day! One day I might be giving a training class on GIS, another I might be making a map to support another program or division.  This week, for example, I am correcting areas in a database of visited facilities.  This is a resource available to the public. 

What is the best part of your job?

I get to do what I studied in school every day – not everyone gets to do that!  When working with maps and geography I get to be creative and problem solve. 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

I was always eco-conscious: I reduce/reuse/recycle, take public transportation as often as I can, ride my bike, buy recycled paper products, encourage my friends to do the same. Growing up in the 70’s, living the green life was almost inherit.  We knew the environment was important. 

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

I have a certificate in GIS, which means I took 5 classes on different areas of GIS.  I am also finishing a masters degree in Geography and Environmental Studies.  Some specific classes I took and utilize include GIS for the Natural Environment and an Interactive Mapping class – this deals with websites with maps. 

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

Study geography!  Embrace science and computers – don’t be afraid of them!  Think about all the maps you see today – they are all made on a computer. 

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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Career advice from Monica

While I was busy studying environmental business in college, my sister Katie was putting her biology and chemistry degrees to work at the EPA.  I do not have much of a science background, so I decided to sit down with one of my sister’s previous coworkers and friends, Monica Onyszko, to learn more about what goes on in the Air Enforcement Branch at the EPA.

What is your position at the EPA?

I’m an environmental engineer in the Air Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Branch.  I investigate air emissions at industrial plants to figure out if they are complying with the Clean Air Act. 

What is a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day at the EPA.  For example, today I’ll be drafting an information request to a steel mill.  On other days I may be out on an inspection, looking into applicability of laws, developing a notice of violation to issue to a plant, etc.

What is the best part of your job?

Knowing that after all our hard work, a real difference is being made, is the best part of my job.  After a plant is cited for a violation and a case concludes with a legal document containing provisions the plant must adhere to in order to get back into compliance with the Clean Air Act, makes it all worth it. 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

Yes!  In high school I wanted to help the environment and I seemed to do well in math and science.  I decided to combine the two, and chose to study environmental engineering in college.

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

Taking math and science classes helps with my current job.  In college, I worked part time in an air research lab.  That was a good way to learn and get hands-on experience.

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

Start by being “green” yourself, and share your “green” ways with family and friends (maybe it’ll rub off on them).  Pay attention to environmental issues in the news in the U.S. and the world to educate yourself.  Pursue a career that will allow you to make a positive impact on 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.

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Career advice from Nefertiti

By: Kelly Siegel

In classes we are always hearing about Superfund sites, but we never touch on them with too much detail.  Lucky for me, I am interning at the EPA so I decided to sit down with, Nefertiti DiCosmo, to learn more about what goes on in the Superfund Division. 

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a remedial project manager in the Superfund Division.  We investigate and clean up hazardous waste sites in EPA Region 5. 

What is a typical day like for you?

The great thing about this job is that you are never bored – you get to learn about new things all the time, so every day is different.  My job is to move Superfund sites through the remedial process.  This requires coordination and constant communication.   Since there are many interested parties when it comes to cleanup work, I am communicating with most of them on a weekly basis.  In addition, I review technical work and reports and give comments.  I sometimes go out to the site to oversee sampling or cleanup activities.  I do a lot of writing and planning.  Some of the documents I write are decision documents, five-year reviews, clean up and sampling schedules and reports, work assignments for contractors, etc. 

What is the best part of your job?

Getting things done!  I feel a sense of accomplishment when I have completed an investigation at a site or when I have written a decision document to clean it up.  I feel progress has been made and I can go to the community and show them what the EPA has done and plans to do.  It is a good feeling that motivates me to continue working on other cleanups.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

I always knew it was important to protect the environment.  However, I was more interested in how human health was impacted by the environment.  We depend so much on our natural resources but, as a human race, we mistreat those resources and then are surprised when our health is negatively impacted.  I like to look at the relationships people have with the environment.

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

Biology and chemistry classes, of course.  But, I often use my philosophy and humanities social sciences course.  One of the keys to getting things done is getting along with people who work on the project.  In addition, I am very proactive on taking advantage of training programs and classes available at EPA.  School is always important, regardless of the subject matter.  It is important to learn how to learn!

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

Be the change!  Lead by example!  It is more effective to focus on how you embody the change you wish to see, than for you to tell a million people how important it is that they do the same thing.  If you want to protect the environment, do some research about what the issues are, choose a change you could make, and then practice that behavior as often as you can.  Then, when you are ready, choose another one!

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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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.

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