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On Women and Girls in Science Day, MI Environment highlights women who work in science-related jobs
February 11, 2022
As part of Women and Girls in Science Day, a day that recognizes the role of women and girls in science, MI Environment profiles several of the 393 women at EGLE who work in science-related jobs. Check back on March 8 (International Women’s Day), for part two of the profiles.
The women listed below answered these three questions:
- What do you do?
- What attracts you to this kind of work?
- What advice do you have for girls or young women looking to this field?
Caitlin Bates, PE, surface water treatment specialist
- I’m a drinking water engineer who oversees community water supplies that use surface water (rivers or lakes) as their source water. As part of my day-to-day job duties, I conduct treatment plant inspections, site visits, answer questions from water systems, and provide training for water operators. I also review construction permits, water sample results, treatment summaries, and engineering reports to make sure regulatory requirements are met and the water plants are operating well.
- Everyone needs drinking water, and it’s an honor to serve the residents of Michigan by ensuring they have high quality drinking water in their homes. I also enjoy teaching and learning and get to do both every day. I assist water system staff by hosting trainings and solving problems before they become a larger issue. Every project and site visit results in learning something new, which I value.
- For girls, talk to women in the field you’re interested in. I can clearly remember the conversations I had with women engineers and scientists when I was in high school and college – those women were honest and showed me what it looks like to be an engineer!So don’t be hesitant to be curious, ask questions, and consider job shadowing. For young women in the field, be confident in the skills you have and talk to other women in similar positions as you. You are doing great work.
Indu Jayamani, Ph.D., PE, environmental engineer
- My workday currently involves figuring out ways to help beneficially reuse non-hazardous wastes and divert as much as possible away from our landfills. I keep the environmental and public health of Michigan citizens at the center of my work. I do this by utilizing science and engineering and by ensuring that all applicable regulations are being met. Previously I also had the opportunity to manage risks from contaminated sites within the state, and to work with the community drinking water systems to ensure that the requirements of the safe drinking water act are met.
- Logic and creativity are two things that attract me to engineering. Though my work is rooted in scientific facts and regulations, it allows me to identify creative solutions to environmental issues. As an added advantage, working at EGLE has allowed me to work with people from various educational backgrounds, cross train between different work units, and has provided ample opportunities for me to take leadership for change both at work and outside.
- It is flawed to think that to be an engineer, you must like only math and science and nothing else. Be uniquely you, as the world needs all kinds of engineers. Believe in yourself, your interest, and your aptitude for the field. Allow yourself to be challenged and do work outside of your comfort zone. See other women engineers and scientists as allies for your work, form your network and work on lifting each other up.
Sara M. Nedrich, Ph.D., environmental toxicologist
- I am an aquatic Lorax (without the moustache); I speak for the fish, wildlife, and aquatic organisms of Michigan. As a toxicologist, I analyze data to determine what concentration of a chemical is safe (non-toxic) to have in the aquatic environment. In the United States, thousands of new chemicals are invented and patented for commercial use each year. My work helps ensure that these chemicals do not build up in our rivers, lakes, and streams or have negative impacts on Michigan’s water-dwelling species.
- I have been passionate about water since I was about 6 years old, when I spent a lot of time romping around in wetlands near my house. I am driven in my career by scientific curiosity and a sense of responsibility to nature. In my undergrad studies, I had a brilliant mentor (Bill Mitsch) who encouraged me to pursue my love of chemistry in studying biogeochemistry of wetlands. Working as a wetland biogeochemist, I saw the negative impacts contaminants were having on my beloved wetlands, which led me to pursue a PhD in aquatic toxicology.
- All the long hours dedicated to learning the ‘language of science’ (math, chemistry, physics, biology) will at times be difficult and frustrating, but it is 100% worth the effort and will make you smarter, more productive, and give you the skills to have a direct, positive impact on the world around you. It is important to surround yourself with positive people, mentors, and coaches who help keep you focused. Try to learn from everyone you meet and form relationships early with professors and people smarter or more experienced than you. Don’t listen to a single person who tries to belittle your achievements or pressure you to into ‘a more suitable’ occupation. I believe in you!
Keisha Williams, Ph.D., senior toxicologist
- As a toxicologist, I review the ways air pollution can cause health problems. I then determine what pollution levels and time periods of exposure do not cause health concerns, even for sensitive groups. To ensure Michigan has good air quality, this information is used to control outdoor air pollution sources in Michigan and to help communities advocate for themselves.
- Both environmental health science research and community engagement are important and interesting efforts. This work brings these efforts together to accomplish positive outcomes for public health and the environment.
- Look into professional societies, like the Society of Toxicology or the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. It’s a good way to learn more about the field.
- Have a good support system. Whether it’s family, friends, or other colleagues, these people celebrate with you when you’re doing well in the field and encourage you when times are difficult.
- Value the unique voice you bring to the field. It can be easier to just fit in, but your unique perspective is needed.
- Educate yourself on personal finance, and try not to have any student loan debt.