Becoming Industrial Hygienists AIHF Scholarship Recipients on How They Discovered the Profession
For more than 30 years, the American Industrial Hygiene Foundation (AIHF) has helped advance the profession by awarding scholarships to students in industrial hygiene and related disciplines, and funding training and professional development opportunities for early-career industrial hygiene and occupational and environmental health and safety professionals. Since 1982, AIHF has distributed more than $1.8 million in scholarships to hundreds of students. This year, the Foundation recognized 38 outstanding students at AIHce 2016 in Baltimore, Md.

As part of the scholarship application process, students are asked to write a one-page statement that explains why they are seeking a degree in industrial hygiene and describes their future goals and plans in the profession. Following is a selection of excerpts written by five of the scholarship recipients for the 2016–2017 academic year. COREY LEE BOLES UNIVERSITY OF IOWA I first became interested in worker safety while on summer break in middle school when I worked in my grandfather’s auto body shop. I performed a number of tasks around the shop, including sanding, sand-blasting, grinding, cleaning, painting, polishing, and plasma cutting. These tasks were completed in an enclosed space where temperatures would typically exceed 100°F on any given day in Eastern North Carolina. I was only required to wear personal protective equipment while painting and plasma cutting, which prompted my concern about being exposed to an unknown amount of aerosols and uncomfortable temperatures within the shop. I quickly found that this was commonplace in many auto body shops across the country, and at that time I became concerned with worker safety and how the working environment can affect different people in different ways. Becoming a Certified Industrial Hygienist will help me reduce or control hazards like the ones I was exposed to in the auto body shop as a child. LAURA ANN HALLETT UNIVERSITY OF IOWA Growing up, it was hard to have a conversation with any of the men in my house without hearing the word, “What?” While the propensity for not listening has become a joke among my siblings and me, it makes sense that my grandfather and father, two men who have had long careers in the mining and construction business, are a bit hard of hearing. Stories about booming machines and deafening explosions made for great bedtime stories when I was younger, but as an aspiring industrial hygienist, these workplace hazards are now the stuff of my nightmares. 
Rather than seeing workers as indicating numbers, I see them as real people with families and lives outside of work. Being able to imagine a background for people allows me to make a personal investment in assuring their health and well-being. I take it as my personal responsibility to ensure that the people I am making safety decisions for are able to go home to their families each day. Making that investment allows me to remain passionate about my career. It is important to pursue a career that makes you feel valuable, and industrial hygiene does just that for me. SHANNON GAIL JOHNSON UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
My path to industrial hygiene has been a complex and fulfilling journey. My background in the military working as a Korean linguist is probably one of the more atypical starting points to begin a career in IH. Yet my assignments overseas in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East presented me with various challenges with respect to situations that often compromised individuals’ safety and well-being. I learned firsthand how the culture of a workplace can influence workers’ well-being and safety for better or worse. I often observed my fellow colleagues thrive or suffer as a result of pro- or anti-safety leadership, and I became committed to protecting workers’ health and safety. 
I aspire to become a Certified Industrial Hygienist and work internationally with developing nations to help foster a strong safety culture. As we continue to globalize, the need is greater than ever for industrial hygienists to pioneer their safety efforts across international borders. I hope to be part of this effort.
Stories about booming machines and deafening explosions made for great bedtime stories when I was younger, but as an aspiring industrial hygienist, these workplace hazards are now the stuff of my nightmares.
JOSHUA ALLEN SARRAN MONTANA TECH OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA My journey toward the industrial hygiene profession started at a much younger age. … I grew up in Southern Louisiana, which happens to have a large industrial area comprising chemical, petrochemical, and manufacturing facilities. I would routinely hear that a friend or neighbor’s relative who worked in industry had become sick or injured from various occupational exposures. Later, I learned the word “mesothelioma” after my grandpa had to get screenings to check on his lungs after asbestos exposures during his career as an electrician. Thankfully he is still alive to this day and we never had to see him suffer. This spurred a greater desire to learn more about occupational illnesses.
After high school I spent a few years in the Navy, and after that I worked offshore in the oil field. I observed many instances where exposures and ergonomic injuries could have easily been prevented. I became even more curious about the EHS field—but was still ignorant of the industrial hygiene field—and decided to pursue an education in occupational safety, health, and environment at Southeastern Louisiana University. It was at SELU that I learned even more about industrial hygiene and the methodologies used to help prevent occupational exposures and illnesses. During my tenure at SELU, I was president of the student section, which allowed me to interact with the local section of AIHA, gain a better understanding of the field, and further my desire to break into the field of industrial hygiene.
ABIGAIL VONNE TOMPKINS UNIVERSITY OF IOWA COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH Growing up, my father was my hero: he was a construction superintendent and was the go-to man who could fix and build anything. My father wore safety gloves, a shiny-but-scratched white hardhat, a 3M dust mask respirator, safety glasses, and leather work boots, all of which I trudged around in. My belief is that my father shaped my passion for health and safety because I never imagined that he could be injured on his worksite or in life. The influence of my dad’s safety precautions led to my passion of wanting to help people. I participated in high school nursing clinical courses and continued on to undergraduate college hoping to receive a bachelor’s in nursing. The first course of my undergraduate semester was “Introduction to Black Death and Bioterrorism,” an environmental health department course, which inevitably changed my whole perspective on health and safety.
After completing my environmental health course, I realized that health and safety does not start in “nursing” those who are already sick and injured; health starts by means of prevention. By anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling risks and hazards, the amount of people needing secondary and tertiary healthcare will drastically be reduced, and I can do that. During my second semester at Western Carolina University, I made the decision to switch my degree to Environmental Health. I took my first class in industrial hygiene, which introduced me to ways of communicating and helping people with injuries, ailments, and concerns about their worksite. I completed training protocols for benzene, chemical hygiene plans, cryogenic safety, high-power laser hazards, nanoscale environmental safety and health, and more during my industrial hygiene-based operations internship in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Higher Education Research program. Industrial hygiene showed me how to use tools for monitoring hazardous exposures of chemical, physical, and biological form, as well as implement safety procedures and equipment, preventing injury to people. APPLY OR DONATE The AIHF scholarship application for the 2017–2018 academic year will be available by December 2016. Students who are interested in applying will find the application and eligibility requirements on the AIHA website
Donations to AIHF scholarship funds or memorial grants can be made online. Contributions are tax deductible as provided by law. 
For more information about AIHF, visit the AIHA website or email Laurie Mutdosch, AIHA’s manager of professional community.