Many times when you start a new job or project, you develop new interests you never knew you had, based on that work. In the course of doing these career interviews, I have come to realize that this has happened to many EPA employees. Bruce Sypniewski is no exception to this. I sat down with Bruce to hear about the variety of experiences that lead him to where he is today.
What is your position at the EPA?
I am the Deputy Division Director for the Air and Radiation Division. My position is internally focused. I make sure the division has the resources it needs to perform and achieve goals. I address human resource and funding issues and when needed step in for the Division Director when he is unavailable.
Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?
After graduate school I worked for the Lake County Health Department assessing closed and covered landfills and their impact on groundwater. This led me to a consulting job at Ecology & Environment. Here I did assessments of abandoned hazardous waste sites for the Superfund Program. I got to see a lot of environmental issues and pollution and wanted to get involved in regulation, which led me to the EPA. I have had a number of positions here including Permit Writer, Remedial Project Manager, Supervisor and Program Manager, along with many different temporary assignments.
What is a typical day like for you?
There is no typical day. I get pulled into all kinds of meetings with Senior Managers and staff on topics ranging from the budget to environmental issues. My job is to distill information and make it presentable and understandable to the common person. I help boil down all the information to applied science – so that the research and data can be applied to real world scenarios.
What is the best part of your job?
There are a lot of best parts! I love tackling problems that have a huge impact on public health and the environment. Having a hand in that whole range of environmental problems is great, when results are seen. There is a long term impact in this work. Ideas become realities!
Did you always have an interest in the environment?
Yes, through my father. My father was a tradesman and spent most of his days in a shop or factory setting so his ideal downtime was outside where nature was. He taught my siblings and me that we can’t put a price on nature and that we are stewards of the land.
What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?
I was a geology major and my job title for Lake County Health Department was Geologist. I applied many of the classes I used in school to my previous jobs.
Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?
I will pass on my father’s advice; “When you leave a place, leave it cleaner than you found it”. Think of yourself as a steward and not an owner of the land to do with it what you will. You have a responsibility to the next generation to preserve and 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.