Class Experiences Lead to On-the-job Expertise for Taylor Katz

Strong interests, engaging professors, and a knack for hard work and good strategies helped Taylor Katz launch her career as an environmental health scientist and project officer at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Center for Environmental Research (NCER).  Recruited to play Division I women’s soccer, Katz attended George Washington University as an undergraduate. With the encouragement of a teammate majoring in Public Health, Katz enrolled in the Introduction to Public Health course as a sophomore. The class inspired Katz to apply for the Joint Bachelor of Science/Masters of Public Health Five-Year program. At that time, the program admitted only a small handful of students. Although recently expanded, the program still aims allow the strongest students at GW to pursue further study in public health.

Katz credits the teachings of Professors Peter LaPuma and George Gray for her decision to earn an MPH in Environmental Health Science and Policy and for her flourishing career.  “Beyond the classwork and acquiring necessary facts, these professors taught me how to think like a public health professional.   We would work in groups to determine the best approach for actual or fictional-but-possible scenarios, such as how to handle possible outbreaks of infectious diseases in the United States. These professors also have worked for the government and were able to share practical experiences about implementing public health plans and the politics of achieving regulations. Additionally, their experiences and knowledge base of the EPA were very helpful when I applied for my internship and job,” explains Katz.

Katz first started at the EPA during her junior year as an unpaid summer intern at the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA). When it was time to work on her graduate school practicum, Katz applied to be a Biologist Student Trainee through the EPA’s Pathways Internship Program, a program that employs graduate students as temporary federal employees until they graduate from their university. During her time as a Pathways Intern, Katz worked on producing a Coarse Particulate Matter synthesis paper with other EPA scientists. Pathways Internship Program supervisors have the opportunity to offer full-time federal employee positions to interns upon completion of their graduate degrees. After witnessing the great work that Katz accomplished, her supervisor, along with NCER’s senior management team, requested that Katz be converted to a permanent federal employee and that she receive a double promotion to an environmental health scientist/project officer.

Katz currently performs the duties of an Environmental Health Scientist and an Air, Climate, and Energy (ACE) Project Officer.

“Earning a graduate degree while working at a government agency has enhanced my ability to comprehend and analyze procedure, policies, regulations, and assessments that relate to the public’s health with regards to their environment,” explains Katz. “On a day-to-day basis, I must tackle multiple tasks, including synthesizing data and scientific literature to brief my supervisors, as well using a variety of compliance strategies to reduce public health risk.”

Katz attributes much of this success to her studies at GW. “EPA’s mission is protecting the environment and human health. Earning my MPH in Environmental Health Science and Policy gave me the tools and information I needed to help support this mission. Being a recent graduate from a great university in the area has helped me foster connections and apply what I’ve learned. I’m always proud to say I studied at GW,” Katz says. 

Forging connections appears to be strength of Taylor Katz’s. Recently, Katz was organizing a conference to introduce the 2016 Air, Climate, and Energy Centers grantees in Research Triangle Park and invited Associate Professor Sabrina McCormick to speak. As a result, Dr. McCormick had the opportunity to educate EPA and external scientists on the importance of science communications.  From scoring goals on GW’s soccer team to scoring opportunities for collaboration for her former professor, Taylor Katz has demonstrated how to make her experience work in the fields she chooses.