CONTENTS



Internships & Independent research guidelines


The ultimate goal of evidence-based environmental policymaking is to effectively eliminate or minimalize exposures to toxic chemical substances, so as to protect both human health and the environment. This intrinsically complex and iterative process involves a broad spectrum of stakeholders and is initiated by an existing public policy mandate, an unfortunate environmental disaster, or the identification of a current or future environmental problem. This leads to the formulation of a rather well-defined environmental problem and initial risk management objectives for reducing the exposure to these chemicals, both of which are informed by the scientific enterprise of assessing potential human health and ecological risks. Risk evaluation includes, but is not limited to, the identification and quantification of the chemicals, determining the critical environmental exposures and associated toxicological effect(s), and quantifying the resulting potential health and ecological risks. This scientific information in turn leads to refining the initial risk management objectives, developing options to achieve them, and, along with other considerations, ultimately reaching a risk management decision on how best to reduce the risks associated with the chemicals.

One of the unique features of the MS-EMAP program is the program-funded 10-week internships at either the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is the Nation’s ultimate scientific authority in validating and upholding state-of-the-art measurements science and data–metrology; or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is the Nation’s top environmental policy making body. Through the program-funded summer internship and the ensuring guided independent research in the 2nd year of the program, the EMAP curriculum offers students the unique real-world practices of evidence-based environmental policymaking after having taken the preparative foundational courses in their 1st year. To maximize the learning and training benefits from these real-world practices, the following guidelines streamline the process of conducting the summer internship and the ensuing guided independent research that will eventually become a substantive contribution to an issue of high importance.

  • Students will identify a real-world policy issue that is of current interest to EPA by the end of April of their 2nd semester. The internship program will help students match a policy mentor, preferably at EPA, who works on that policy issue and a second metrology mentor, preferably at NIST, whose lab works on identifying and quantifying the specific chemicals that underline the policy issue.  The 10-week summer internship can start as soon as the 2nd semester ends but no later than the 1st Monday of June (3 June for 2019).
  • Students will start the internship with their EPA policy mentor to learn the big picture of the policy issue, such as how was it initiated, why it is important, what chemical(s) is involved, what is the current status of scientific understanding, and what are the important information gaps and the current challenges to overcome both scientific and policy issues. Through answering these questions, students will formulate the nature of their research.
  • Students will also work with their metrology mentor on conducting research in environmental metrology on the involved chemicals.
  • Students will also be matched with an expert in risk assessment as their 3rd mentor.
  • At the end of the internship, students will submit a written proposal that summarizes the research results of their internship and provides a research plan for their guided independent research in the 2nd year of the EMAP program through culminating in their Capstone Project (EMAP 518) in the 4th semester.
  • Upon approval by the EMAP faculty, students will pursue their research proposal and conduct guided independent research, continuing to work closely with their internship mentors in the 2nd year of the program.  The results of the student’s Capstone Project will be shared in both an oral presentation and final report/paper. 

EPA and nist Internship projects


1. Building cell models to identify chemical targets important in cancer

Description of project:  Transcript profiling which measures global gene expression changes in response to chemical exposure is a robust, data-rich approach to chemical toxicity screening. However, a major challenge when using transcript profiling is linking gene expression changes to molecular and cellular effects important in chemical toxicity. Our lab has recently made significant progress in developing computational approaches that allow prediction of the activation or inhibition of specific transcription factors in rodents and humans important in endocrine disruption and cancer. There are a number of transcription factor- and pathway-focused projects open for students to participate in, and they include those which involve construction and characterization of cell lines knocked out for specific genes using Crispr-Cas9 that can be used to help interpret predictions from transcript profiling data bases. The student will learn how to construct knockout cell lines using as an example a set of transcription factors important in cancer. The student will learn how to construct vectors used to express the Cas9 enzyme and the guide RNA, how to transfect the plasmids into mammalian cells, how to select for the plasmid, how to determine the percentage of the cell population that is knocked out, and how to use the set of cell lines to identify chemicals that work through specific factors.

Special skills the intern should have: A background in the basics of molecular biology, experience in cell culture techniques and cloning, and an understanding of the biology behind Crispr-Cas9 methods would be very useful but are not required.

Contact:  Chris Corton, ORD/National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, NC; 919 541 0092, corton.chris@epa.gov

2. Identification of molecular targets of chemicals in complex mixtures using transcript profiling

Description of the project:  Transcript profiling which measures global gene expression changes in response to chemical exposure is a robust, data-rich approach to chemical toxicity screening; however, a major challenge when using transcript profiling is linking gene expression changes to molecular and cellular effects important in chemical toxicity. Our lab has recently made significant progress in developing computational approaches that allow prediction of the activation or inhibition of specific transcription factors in rodents and humans important in endocrine disruption and cancer. There are a number of transcription factor- and pathway-focused projects open for students to participate in, and they include those which involve understanding the health risks of exposure to contaminated water. The student will apply a number of techniques to use gene expression profiling to identify molecular targets modulated by mixtures of chemicals in water in human cells and to link those effects to adverse outcomes in animals and people. The student will learn how to culture human cells, expose the cells to chemicals or chemical mixtures, to interpret the resulting transcript profiles for identification of molecular targets using a number of bioinformatic techniques, perform dose-response modeling, and to make linkages to health effects through perturbation of networks of adverse outcome pathways.

Special skills the intern should have: Experience in cell culture techniques and transcript profiling, and experience with R would be very useful but are not required.

Contact:  Chris Corton, ORD/National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, NC; 919 541 0092, corton.chris@epa.gov

3. Speciation Data Improvements

An important foundation of EPA’s Air Quality Management Policy are the emissions used in Air Quality Models.  EPA develops and uses the SPECIATE database for obtaining source category-specific chemical composition data for organic gases and particulate matter (PM).  These chemical composition data are called speciation profiles, and they are used to generate speciated emissions from volatile organic compounds (VOC) and PM emissions collected in EPA’s National Emissions Inventory (NEI).   Efforts to update and use SPECIATE is a multi-office EPA effort and is coordinated by a SPECIATE work group (SWG) consisting of experts from the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) and Office of Research and Development (ORD).  The EPA SWG strives to improve the speciation profiles in SPECIATE and ensure that the most appropriate speciation profiles are being used for VOC and PM in air quality modeling.  A detailed assessment to prioritize speciation profile improvements for air quality modeling has been completed and has resulted in a journal article accepted for publication in Atmospheric Environment.  The next step of this work, which could also result in a peer-reviewed publication and conference presentations, is to address the highest priority profile needs by identifying candidate profiles from the SPECIATE database, the literature and/or current EPA test programs. 

The intern will review the SPECIATE needs assessment journal article to identify the priority speciation profiles for improvement, which inventory sources are assigned to those profiles, and determine if there are any new profiles that can be used instead.  In addition to searching through the SPECIATE database, the intern will conduct literature searches and coordinate with ORD research teams to find data to add to SPECIATE. The intern will present candidate profile replacements for further quality review and decision by the SWG, document the SWG decisions, and help make the updates in the SPECIATE and the mapping of speciation profiles to the NEI source categories.  The intern will track the quantity of emissions for which improved speciation profiles were identified.  The results of the research will be documented and presented at appropriate emissions and/or modeling related research conferences and prepared for a publication. Successful applicants will have experience in using spreadsheets to organize and manipulate data. The intern should be a fast learner with a technical background and an interest in air quality, emissions, and/or chemical pollutants in the environment. 

POC:  Madeleine Strum, Office of Air and Radiation/Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards in Research Triangle Park, NC; 919 541 2383, strum.madeleine@epa.gov

4. Measurement-Model Fusion Mapping of Total (Wet + Dry) Deposition

Goal: Update methodology for merging existing monitoring data (ambient concentrations and wet deposition fluxes) with model results from the Community Multiscale Model (CMAQ) to provide total deposition gridded surfaces. The total deposition maps are used to assess changes in nitrogen and sulfur deposition due to emission reduction programs, develop ecosystem effects models for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and improve our understanding of atmospheric deposition in a changing climate. The total deposition maps are also used to link ecosystem response with air quality under the current NO2, SO2, PM secondary NAAQS review. The processes and scripts used to create the maps need to be updated to provide increased flexibility in data inputs (new model runs, varying measurement sample periods) and outputs (grids, data visualization web tools).

Skills Needed: Proficient in Python, Arc GIS; Atmospheric Science/Chemistry background helpful, but not required

POC:  Richard Haeuber, Ph.D., Office of Air and Radiation/Office of Atmospheric Programs in Washington, DC, 202 343 9250, haeuber.richard@epa.gov

5-9. PFAS Treatment Opportunities

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are fluorinated aliphatic substances with unique properties, such as being hydrophobic, lipophobic, and extremely stable due to the strength of the C-F bond.  These properties led to their extensive use as surface active agents in products like stain repellants and fire-fighting foams.  Currently, EPA has an extensive program ranging from analytics, health effects, exposure, and treatment.  There is an opportunity for a student(s) to work collaboratively with EPA’s staff who are working on treating PFAS in drinking waters and contaminated sites.  Below is a short description of the work.  The student will work with a team of EPA researchers in Cincinnati, OH along with our collaborators in the Office of Water (Washington, DC), Department of Defense (San Antonio, TX and Dayton, OH), and numerous communities such as Wilmington, NC; Plainfield, MI; and Horsham, PA.  It is acknowledged that this work is too broad for one student.  The goal is to allow for the student/advisor/mentor to select the ideal subsection(s) of work based on the student’s interest and technical background.

This multiple components of the work on the treatment of PFAS include:

1)  Update the EPA’s Drinking Water Treatability Database (TDB) with recent literature.  This will entail searching the recent literature for papers dealing with the treatment of PFAS, and condensing the results and conclusions to be incorporated in the TDB.  Search EPA TDB. https://oaspub.epa.gov/tdb/pages/general/home.do

2)  Work with EPA researchers on modeling GAC and anion exchange data obtained from numerous sources.  This would involve model development and would require a student familiar with Python or R programing languages.

3)  Work with EPA’s Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Cost Models by including recent data and generating costs from pilot- and full-scale results from data gathered from numerous sources such as EPA, DOD, and communities.  This can be in conjunction with an effort at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) that is attempting to merge EPA and DOD cost models.  This will require a student to be familiar with Excel programing and with some engineering background. Search: EPA WBS http://www2.epa.gov/dwregdev/drinking-water-treatment-technology-unit-cost-models-and-overview-technologies

4)  Work with an EPA project with Calgon Carbon and Evoqua on evaluating the fate of PFAS in granular activated carbon reactivation (GAC) systems that will be reactivating spend GAC from community/remediation systems.  This will involve coordinating with additional researchers from Research Triangle Park, NC.  This would require a student to be familiar with system operations in general, and the ability to travel to Pennsylvania.

5)  Track and summarize EPA’s PFAS management programs (drinking water, site remediation, landfills, biosolids, etc.). This will involve collecting data from numerous sites across the country where EPA is studying/evaluating/responding to contaminated sites.  The student will summarize the issues involved and EPA’s response.  Compare actions and results across sites and prepare communication pieces for internal and external audiences.  This will involve working with engineers and scientists in Cincinnati, RTP, Regional offices, communities, DOD, etc.  Also, this will involve working with communication specialists in Cincinnati, OH and Washington, DC.

POC:  Thomas Speth, ORD/National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, OH; 513 569 7208, speth.thomas@epa.gov

10. Resource Inventory of Uncertainty/Variability Tools and Guidance

EPA’s Risk Assessment Forum (RAF) Uncertainty and Variability Technical Panel was tasked with reviewing EPA’s needs in addressing uncertainty and variability in risk assessments used to inform decisions under various regulatory programs. Among the key challenges faced by risk assessors, decision makers and communicators are how to assess, address and communicate uncertainty in Agency products. Among the actions taken by the RAF Technical Panel was the development of a Resource Inventory – an annotated inventory of currently available resources regarding uncertainty and variability both within and outside of EPA. The panel concluded there are numerous existing resources developed by EPA and other organizations at the national and international level that provide a range of guidance and tools to support enhanced treatment of uncertainty and variability. The Technical Panel proposed that a Resource Inventory would be extremely valuable to risk assessors. Since the development of the Resource Inventory in early 2016, the Technical Panel recognized the need to review and update the Inventory to ensure that all entries are current, easily accessible, and organized in a manner that the user can easily locate information. The Inventory may also need to be updated to reflect additional resources that have been developed since 2016. Therefore, we request the intern review each of the current entries in the inventory to make sure that the references are current, links to the materials are still valid, descriptions are adequate and complete, and conduct a literature review to see if additional resources have been developed in the past few years. The intern will benefit from the experience of reviewing, curating and identifying the range of resources addressing uncertainty and also characterizing information gaps.    

The successful candidate will have strong quantitative and communication skills and demonstrate motivation to see a project to completion. The benefits from this internship will be a greater understanding of the challenges facing a science-based regulatory agency and the utility of mathematics and statistical tools in the regulatory environment.

POC:  Michael Broder, ORD/Office of the Science Advisor in Washington, DC; 202 564 3393, broder.michael@epa.gov

11. Applying Systematic Review to Risk Assessments

As part of Office of Research and Development, the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) is a leader in conducting the human health and ecological risk assessment to support the EPA program offices and regional offices as well as other stakeholders to support the decision making. Through evaluating a large body of complex scientific information for hazard identification and dose response, NCEA provides a strong scientific foundation for the regulatory decision making in protecting the human health and the environment based on reviewed publicly available scientific literature. As part of systematic review, a large body of literature is assessed in a transparent and reproducible manner through a set of criteria to identify the relevant studies from those that are not critical in the risk assessment.  Systematic review is an advanced methodological approach but can be a resource intensive exercise especially for the large size of the database that contain many health endpoints to be evaluated. As part of systematic review, evidence mapping becomes a popular tool that helps to focus on the research assessment priorities and needs for the decision makers. It allows an assessor to systematize and visualize the complex scientific information in a user-friendly manner to help understand the database and to address specific questions that the decision makers may have. It also allows an assessor to identify data gaps for guiding future research. As a summer intern, the student would be able to learn the latest tool(s) used in systematic review and apply them to help advance the assessment needs for high profile chemicals.

Students should have taken biology, environmental science, or public health courses.   Students should be proficient in Microsoft office software and have interest to learn systematic review tools.

POC:  Santhini Ramasamy, ORD/National Center for Environmental Assessment in Washington, DC; 202 564 8328, Ramasamy.santhini@epa.gov

12. Evidence Synthesis Applied to Phosphorous in U.S. Lakes

Effective environmental management and policy decisions typically depend on the integration of large bodies of evidence gleaned from existing research and knowledge. Cohesively and transparently presenting this evidence to decision-makers and other stakeholders is a critical challenge in applied environmental sciences. Evidence syntheses must be detailed enough to adequately represent the complexity of environmental issues (and the myriad scientific findings relevant to those issues), yet simple enough to quickly convey (and provide support for) bottom-line messages. This project will explore different methods and tools for integrating and visualizing evidence derived from multiple sources (e.g., literature-based evidence, raw data analyses, data inventories, and empirical modeling), as part of a larger project examining phosphorus trends in US lakes.

Suggested skills for this project include a strong interest in data visualization and communication, a willingness to actively seek out novel visualization examples and possibilities, and the ability to become familiar with the technologies (i.e., software, programming code) powering the most promising options.  

POC:  Kate Schofield, ORD/National Center for Environmental Assessment in Washington, DC;              202 564 2640, schofield.kate@epa.gov

13-14. PFAS Screening of NIST Environmental Reference Materials

Environmental management and policy decisions are strengthened by the availability of suitable reference materials to underpin the analysis of environmental samples. The goal of these efforts is to screen existing NIST environmental reference materials (e.g. sludge, drinking water, house dust, sediments) for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) with high resolution mass spectrometry. One project will focus primarily on the collection of high-resolution mass spectra for the identification of common PFAS and the other project will be more data focused to create consensus mass spectra of common per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from existing and newly created data. This opportunity is suitable for up to two interns. Together these efforts will both expand NIST’s offering of PFAS standards to the wider research community and will contribute reference PFAS spectra to mass spectral databases.

Suggested skills for these projects include previous chemistry lab experience which involved sample extraction and analysis by mass spectrometry, organic chemistry, and beginner level R programming for the lab-based project. A general understanding of beginner to intermediate level R programming experience and a solid background in statistics with some Bayesian experience is preferred for the data project.

POC:  Benjamin Place, MML/National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, MD;             301-975-3941, benjamin.place@nist.gov

15-16. Elemental Analysis of Seafood (Salmon and Shrimp) Reference Materials and Samples

With over 90% of the seafood imported into United States, it is critical for industry professionals to have access to suitable reference materials to ensure the quality and safety of our seafood. The focus of these projects is to strengthen efforts to provide evidence on the authenticity and traceability of salmon and shrimp. This opportunity is suitable for up to two interns. Interested candidates will perform broad elemental analysis (e.g. Cd, Ca, Cu, Mg, P, K, Se, Na, Zn, Pb) on farm raised and wild caught salmon and shrimp to establish within and between group variations. Measurements will be made on two new NIST reference materials and commercial samples.

Suggested skills for these projects include experience with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), previous chemistry lab experience which includes sample extraction and sample analysis and beginner level R programming.

POC:  Lee Yu, MML/National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, MD; 301-975-4127, lee.yu@nist.gov


Career Prospects for EMAP Students


Although environmental issues usually start locally, their impacts/ramifications can rapidly become international in perspective. Therefore, pollutions and environmental impacts are not restricted by political boundaries. For future endeavors, it is important that responses to environmental issues of concern be based on the best available science and a clear understanding of what data measurements mean regardless of where or when the data are generated or measured. This EMAP program is ideally designed to provide future leaders and practitioners in the environmental world with the necessary knowledge, competencies and skills to support future policy endeavors and environment stewardship.

Students graduating from this program will be well equipped with both fundamental and practical knowledge, technical skills and competencies in EMAP that are widely applicable for positions in both the public and private sectors – government (at all levels) agencies and NGOs, research and academic institutions and corporate entities. Environmental research, policy development, monitoring and management, health and safety assessment, and chemicals management and products stewardship will be prime areas for the graduates of the MS-EMAP program.

Moreover, a significant percentage of the EPA workforce will become eligible to retirement in the next several years as the baby boomers reach their retirement age. The same is true for many other governmental agencies (both state and national). Collaborators from both NIST and EPA believe that there is a strong need for such an educational program based on their own needs within their respective governmental agencies.

Every business sector has the need for environment, health and safety assessment, management and regulatories compliance that are critical to successful business operations and provide employment opportunities for graduates. There will be additional opportunities in services that rely critically on chemical and biochemical measurements, such as forensic services, food and nutrition quality control and assessment services, measurement labs in medical tests, chemical and biological companies, just to name a few.

A currently, relevant example of where this degree will provide a strong advantage in terms of future job opportunities for Georgetown EMAP graduates is the enactment of the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), also called Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act (LCSA), in 2016. The law was ushered through and approved almost unanimously by both republican and democratic law makers in both chambers (403 to 12 in the House and 98 to 1 in the Senate), has a strong support from chemical industries and other stakeholders, and therefore will continue to be the law of land under the current and future U.S. administrations. In brief, the new TSCA emphasizes

  1. Scientific testing and risk-based evaluation of all chemicals (old and new),
  2. Promoting the development and implementation of alternative scientific test methods, including “big data” based methods,
  3. Emphasizing EPA science requirements & new science standards.

The enactment of the new TSCA will create a huge employments space in industries, advocacy groups/NGOs, and federal/state regulatory agencies. Graduates from the Georgetown EMAP program who will be rigorously educated and trained in both metrology (for scientific measurements) and policy (for developing policy based on the best available science) will be ideally suited for employment opportunities created by this new legislation.

More broadly, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2016-17 Edition) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-socialscience/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm, employment of environmental scientists and specialists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Heightened public interest in the hazards facing the environment, as well as the increasing demands placed on the environment by population growth, are expected to spur demand for environmental scientists and specialists, therefore the graduates of this EMAP program. The above predictions also apply to international job market.

The EMAP graduates will have one of the broadest professional spaces in which to develop a rewarding career of great and lasting societal impacts for the betterment of the world. An illustrative example is environmental health and safety manager that has possible career paths as follows: 

 

The following is a non-exhaustive list of places where the EMAP graduates can find great career opportunities:
Federal, State, Local Agencies:
Explore Federal & state agencies websites for programs; Consult with national and international experts through professional organizations such as SOT, SRA, ACT
Examples - EPA, FDA, DOI, DHS, OSHA, NIOSH, NIH (NIEHS), CDC, CPSC, DOT, DOE, DOD Congressional Committees, OMB and State/Local level environmental regulatory offices.
Private industry:
Examples - Chemicals, Pesticides, Pharmaceuticals, Foods, Energy, Consumer Products, Biotechnology, Automotive, Consulting Companies, CROs, Environmental Engineering, Trade groups/organizations.
Non-Profit organizations:
Examples – Academic Universities/Colleges, NRDC, EDF, ILSI – HESI, Sierra Club, World Wild Life Fund
Advocacy Groups:
Examples - Environmental Law Firms, American chemistry Council
International Organizations:
Examples - WHO, ECA, FAO, OECD

In summary, the Georgetown EMAP program pioneers an advanced and integrated graduate education and professional training of highest quality in an emerging interdisciplinary field of great societal importance for future environmental sciences and policy leaders and practitioners, particularly in the fields of toxic substances measurement, management, and policy making. They are expected to compete well in an ever increasing employment space that addresses directly the very long-term well being of human society and the planet earth.

Career Resources for Alumni


We are committed to our students' professional success throughout their career. Graduate alumni can take advantage of a variety of Georgetown University's career development resources.

Information for Employers


At Georgetown University's Masters in Environmental Metrology and Policy Program, we are training future leaders who can integrate at ease the state-of-the-art environmental measurements science with environmental policy making. By supporting your employees to attend this program, you are helping them to develop the skills, experience and knowledge and to bring those back to your organization to help make meaningful impacts on the status of the environment for future generations.

COMING SOON   --  Career Opportunities is a password-protected database of current jobs and internships in the public, private and nonprofit sectors for our current MS-EMAP students and alumni. New opportunities are added regularly, so check back often.