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Careers

What advice do our faculty members have for your career planning?

Graduate school will open up so many options for you—see what comes to you through your graduate school experience and take opportunities as they present themselves. You don’t have to plan your whole career path in graduate school, but getting a postdoc position after your degree is a good idea in order to apply your research experience in a role with a higher level of responsibility.

What are the job prospects with a graduate degree in environmental science?

Employment of environmental scientists and specialists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, based on investigation by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Good information about careers in our field can be found through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*NET OnLine

What are some of our alumni doing today?

Jake McDonald, Ph.D.

Scientist, Director of Environmental Respiratory Health Program, Director of Chemistry and Inhalation Exposure Program
McDonald

Jake is collaborating with people from around the world to perform studies to better inform policy and develop new therapies.

Q: What impact has our program had on your career?
A: The ES program provided me with the tools to succeed in an applied research environment. The job I do intersects the fields of chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and risk. We do studies to determine the risk of materials and also develop new therapies. The diverse training I had at UNR allows me to adapt to multiple disciplines.

Q: What did you like about the program?
A: I really liked the hands-on practical approach the professors took. Although we discussed theory, we focused on how to apply that theory in real scenarios that I still use in my job today.

Q: What do you like about your current job?
A: I love the diversity of scientific problems I get to encounter. I work at a nonprofit biomedical research facility and collaborate with people from around the world to perform studies to better inform policy or develop new therapies.

Q: What is one of the best experiences you’ve had working in your field after graduation?
A: One of the best experiences was developing new techniques for understanding the approach to study complex mixtures in the environment. Research we performed help change the way air pollution toxicology was studied for the past 10 years. More recently, we have been working on new inhaled therapies that I think will be on the market within the next few years as new ‘front-line’ therapies for pulmonary diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Q: What advice do you have for students either considering or enrolled in the program?
A: The key is to be diverse in your training and learn as many technical skills as possible. “Book learning” is nice but we look to hire people that can do things with their hands…good analytical chemists, molecular biologists…problem solvers. The program at UNR offers a good environment to develop these skills, but it takes work to get involved with as many complex research problems as you can while there.

Lynn Mazzoleni, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Chemistry, Michigan Technological University
Mazzoleni

Lynn is a professor at Michigan Tech managing her research group—they use advanced mass spectrometry techniques to identify organic molecules from atmospheric complex mixtures.

Q: What impact has our program had on your career?
A: The environmental sciences graduate program prepared me for a career in academic research. Currently, I'm a professor at Michigan Tech and I'm managing my own research group.

Q: What did you like about the program?
A: I enjoyed learning from a variety of professors and having the flexibility to build my own course plan to suite my research interests.

Q: What do you like about your current job?
A: In my current job, I have considerable academic freedom to pursue research interests that are both interesting to me and responsive to federal research priorities. Currently, my research activities are supported by the National Science Foundation and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Q: What is one of the best experiences you’ve had working in your field after graduation?
A: Hmmm... this is tough. I've had a number of great experiences, including working with great people at a variety of institutions. However, the best or most memorable moments for me are those associated with the academic "successes" of my research students.

Q: What advice do you have for students either considering or enrolled in the program?
A: The most important advice that I can give anyone pursuing a research degree is to find something that is interesting and learn everything you can about it. Ask questions that seem obvious or beyond the scope. Acquiring knowledge is fun and rewarding despite the hard work required.

Jason Geddes, Ph.D.

Regent, Nevada System of Higher Education
Geddes

Jason was appointed by the Nevada governor to serve on our State’s higher education board of regents and spent two terms as the board chairman.

Q: What impact has our program had on your career?
A: It gave me the scientific inquiry and communication skills to succeed in my field. It also taught me to be able to adjust and adapt to new fields.

Q: What did you like about the program?
A: The flexibility of the program to customize to personal interests. I also liked the closeness of the graduate students and faculty.

Q: What do you like about your current job?
A: The ability to translate environmental sciences to policy makers and the general public.

Q: What is one of the best experiences you’ve had working in your field after graduation?
A: The best would have to be using my knowledge of environmental sciences to change public policy as a Nevada State Assemblyman.

Q: What advice do you have for students either considering or enrolled in the program?
A: Students need to realize that they will be changing jobs and careers many times in their life and need to focus on the basics of communication and investigation to be adaptable in the workforce.

What will your career options be?

There is a wide spectrum of career opportunities within environmental sciences and health.

Federal

Federal agencies (CDC, EPA, NIH, FDA, USDA and USGS) will hire for positions such as

  • Epidemiologists
  • Program directors
  • Physical scientists in the environmental arena—perhaps in the development of air and water regulations
  • Scientists working in USDA research facilities
  • Nutritionists for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Fellowships through the CDC that offer postings all around the globe

State and County Jobs

Washoe County offers public health positions within the health department and the air quality management division. Some of our former students are currently working on an underground storage tank program for Washoe. Many of our alumni have also been hired by Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas).

International agencies

  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • United Nations (UN)
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Academia

Now is a good time for finding jobs in academia—there are currently a lot opportunities nationwide. The postdoctoral route is the initial step after graduate school for going into research and academia, but having experience as a postdoc is also useful for consulting jobs.

Industrial Sectors

Most private sector, large corporations have environmental and health divisions that would hire Ph.D. graduates or have a need for consultants. Our students could also look to the mining and food industries for positions.

Consulting

There are opportunities for environmental law jobs, and lobbying and policy work in Washington D.C.

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