During an unparalleled end to their senior year at Millersville, Samuel Welk and Emily Seiler, both from Millersville’s class of 2020, completed an internship with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Under the supervision and guidance of NIOSH employees, Welk and Seiler selected topics of interest to research independently throughout their internship. Both Welk and Seiler’s research has been featured on the NIOSH blog, a digital publication sent to nearly 5,000 scientists across the nation.
During his time at the University, Welk dual majored in Occupational Safety Environmental Health and Emergency Management with a concentration in environmental hazards. Welk was first connected to the NIOSH summer internship program through his professor, Dr. Jack Ogutu, who put in him contact with the organization.
“I’ve been a firefighter since I was 14. I joined in my hometown and then when I moved, I lived in a firehouse probably five miles from the campus. I lived there through my schooling,” says Welk. “I figured if I got hurt or couldn’t find a job in firefighting or if I wanted to retire, my degree would give me something to do. I plan on being a full-time firefighter and that’s really what I like doing.”
Welk emphasized that he enjoyed being able to incorporate his professional experience into his studies. The NIOSH internship opportunity did just that, providing ample opportunities for the research Welk was doing to directly impact the industry he is invested in. Welk’s research for NIOSH focused on line-of-duty deaths in the fire service. His featured blog post, “Applying plain language to firefighter fatality recommendations” highlighted his findings.
“We look at (line of duty death reports) a lot in the fire service because history repeats itself and we hate to be the same statistic,” says Welk. Fire service professionals look back over death reports to learn something from the incident and avoid taking the death of a fellow service member in vain. According to Welk, line of duty fatality reports can be difficult to comprehend. His research seeks to bring clarity to the topic and make the reporting process more self-explanatory.
“I have been interviewing and testing for fire jobs all throughout college. This is something to add to the resume for sure,” says Welk. Through his opportunity to intern at NIOSH, Welk has grown academically and professionally. He encourages students to make the best of the opportunities available to them. “I tell everyone to get those opportunities because you’ve got to take advantage of them. You might not make those connections again,” says Welk.
Seiler graduated with a degree in Occupational Safety and Environmental Health. After graduating, Seiler accepted a position as Safety Manager at a Frito Lay site in Connecticut.
Seiler was made aware of the NIOSH internship opportunity by Ogutu, who coordinated directly with the team at NIOSH regarding the internship. Seiler said she was not sure what to expect from the program, but “I trusted Dr. Ogutu and his guidance. If he was suggesting the program, it was probably going to be something good.”
Throughout her internship, Seiler was tasked with researching a topic of her choosing. “I wanted to pick something that I didn’t know that much about. I thought it would be fun to research something that I’m not already familiar with.” Seiler’s published research, “Opioid use and drug overdose deaths in the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector,” focused on the way substance usage can impact the workplace, ultimately providing information on how the risk of fatality can be reduced. “It ended up being really interesting,” says Seiler. “I learned a lot.”
According to Seiler, the internship and research process was primarily completed independently and with the help of a NIOSH mentor who evaluated her progress and provided resources. Seiler felt supported throughout the process, but also given adequate room to determine the direction of her project.
“I have book knowledge that I have learned at Millersville and I have manufacturing internship experiences, so research provided a third facet, a different direction I could take. I could work in consulting, I could become a manager at a manufacturing site, or I could go into research,” says Seiler. “It gave me another angle of safety to look at and I figured that even if I choose not to go into research, it was still beneficial to get professional writing experience and build my network.”
Seiler’s time as a student at Millersville may be over, but she is carrying the experiences and lessons learned while on campus with her. “At Millersville, you build relationships with people so that when you’re ready to graduate, you’ve met people, you’ve learned lots, and you’ve been out in the field. It’s great to get that kind of support from Dr. Ogutu and the University as a whole.”
To view Welk and Seiler’s published studies, visit http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2020/12/03/millersville/