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 a unique real-world experience of observing, learning or/and practicing 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 may eventually become a substantive contribution to an issue of high importance.

  • Students are encouraged to identify a real-world policy issue related to a specific environmental chemical 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.