Young Hygienist Snapshot: Matt Zock [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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Raised in a small town in northwestern Pennsyltuckey, USA (for you city folk that’s what we call rural Pennsylvania) and having never experienced air travel I attended Clarion University (a whopping 59 miles from home) with no ardent academic interests. After years of playing rugby and cruising through basic coursework I determined that I would study biology, and for all the right reasons (my Biology 101 professor was pretty cool and I enjoyed the outdoors). After graduation I worked for RJ Lee Group in their Pittsburgh laboratory, quickly discovering that the lab position didn’t fit my lifestyle. Fighting an early-life crisis I volunteered for fieldwork. The project was environmental sampling at the World Trade Center Site in the aftermath of 9/11. I hopped on an airplane for the first time and began a personal and professional transformational journey. While living in big-city hotels and working full-time in a newly formed field office, I attended Hunter College in New York City and received a master’s degree in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. Shortly thereafter I became a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Project Manager with RJ Lee Group’s technical consulting division, traveling the country providing IH services for various industries including, emergency response, manufacturing, healthcare and nanotechnology. Recently I switched gears (pun intended) by joining the transportation/trucking industry, accepting a position at FedEx Ground’s Corporate Safety Advisory Center. Back to my roots of western Pennsylvania, I live with my family (wife Kerstin, daughter Lily and son Evan) in Pittsburgh.

I was lucky enough to meet Matt at the AIHA’s FLI program back in October…and now you’re lucky to get 5-mins with Matt!

Best location I have worked: Anywhere south during the Northeastern US winters. Notables: Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Perth, Western Australia.

The best thing about my job is: Having the opportunity to influence others to conduct their business and live their lives safely and healthily.

Career Highlight: Applying leading-edge scientific knowledge to help solve real-world problems, e.g., conducting personal breathing zone exposure assessments for engineered nanoparticles; surveying cancer treatment facilities for environmental with antineoplastic (chemotherapy) agents; exposure simulation for product stewardship and exposure reconstruction to determine historical exposure potential.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Educating. Unseen hazards, moon suit-like PPE, and beeping/blinking sampling gadgets can be scary to some people.

People normally think my job involves: Here is an actual response from a recent random pub-dweller: “Do you clean stuff…like, in industrial buildings?”

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Get involved with the American Industrial Hygiene Association, including volunteer working groups and committees. The learning, connections and opportunities are endless

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I’m a firm believer that a hygienist, regardless of your level, position, etc. should never be afraid to get your hands dirty alongside the workers you are monitoring. But since other Young Hygienist Snapshots seem to use this section to describe a job that was particularly smelly, I can relate. Following a train derailment and chlorine release in a small rural community, I was working with a team of hygienists and environmental scientists to enter homes and businesses in an evacuation zone and provide clearance air sampling. One home that was closed-up for nearly a week during warm weather had several dogs, cats and other small pets trapped inside. Upon entrance we discovered that, luckily, all of the animals were OK. The carpet was not OK.


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