Hilarie Warren earned her Master’s in Public Health from Emory University and her BS in Biology from the University of New Hampshire. Here she shares a little about her career and the inspiration behind it.
What is your specific area of STEM?
How would you explain your STEM field to young girls?
My job is to use my knowledge about the human body to help people protect themselves at work from things that might make them sick. I use special equipment to measure things (particles in the air or the loudness of a noise) and then compare my results to numbers established by other scientists to make sure people who are working with chemicals or loud machinery aren't at risk for illness or injury.
If my measurements show there is a danger to an employee, I use engineering methods to find a way to change the equipment or process so it better protects the person doing the job. We don't want anyone getting sick just from doing their job!
What traits might a child possess that may indicate an interest or aptitude for your STEM field?
Interest in taking things apart and putting them back together (puzzles, models); interest in how things work or are made; problem-solving ability; ability to see the whole/big picture – a systems approach.
What did you know about your STEM field when you were a child?
I knew nothing about the field of industrial hygiene as a child. I was given lots of opportunities to build and create (taking apart old telephones, for example, to see their inner workings) and emphasis on imaginative play, creativity and the arts were fostered and exemplified by both parents and teachers. I spent a lot of time outdoors, which instilled both a love of science and biology.
Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?
I always knew I would work in science (it was my favorite subject in school from the beginning), but the idea to pursue something other than medical school came much later. I was lucky to have 2 opportunities to travel abroad and see working conditions in different parts of the world, and after those experiences I couldn't quite get them out of my mind. But I didn't know what to do with that information yet.
The opportunity to work in occupational health/industrial hygiene came when a graduate school academic advisor suggested an internship opportunity in this field. She knew my interest in protecting the health of the most vulnerable people, and suggested this field might be a good fit. She was right.
What are some really cool things that people in your profession work on?
I get to see how things are made - every day! I go to companies that make everything from sugar to bicycles to apple orchards to airplanes to chocolate candy to sweatshirts!
I get to stomp around on big construction projects and see buildings and roads designed and put together even before anyone else ever gets to use or drive on them! I get to meet lots of different people and hear about how they do their work - so every day is a little bit different.
One of my favorite places I ever got to work was at an aquarium - I got to go behind the scenes and see parts of the facility (and animals!) that only people who worked there could usual go. If you like to see how things are made - and like to get a little dirty! - this is a great field to explore.
What inspirational message would you give young girls to inspire them to pursue STEM?
If you are excited and interested by a topic or a field - THAT's what matters the most. Don't be afraid to explore, ask questions, get your hands dirty - the world needs more people who are excited about the possibilities and potential of things, not just those who can "do" the job. STEM work is the best because it's never dull, it's fun, it's challenging, and it's rewarding.
Thank you for contributing, Hilarie!
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