SPHIS alumna and doctoral candidate, Katlyn McGraw, shares her public health journey

Katlyn McGraw

SPHIS doctoral candidate and alumna, Katlyn McGraw, MPH, has always had a love for the environment and its preservation, and says that working in public health allows her to connect her love for chemistry, the environment, and people together.

In order to pursue her passion, Katlyn said one of the keys to her success has been networking, which helped her land an internship with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Katlyn , who has never been a big fan of networking, said while attending the annual Superfund Research Conference, she connected with an environmental health scientist from the EDF during a speed networking event. Katlyn said, “Normally, I would not have pursued the connection further. However, I decided to contact her to see if she would be interested in being an informal mentor in my career.”

As a result, Katlyn gained not only a mentor, but a paid internship with the EDF in Houston, Texas, during the summer of 2018 as well. While there she attended professional development workshops, assisted with community outreach, and presented during public meetings. She also worked on a number of research projects, including an analysis of chemical releases after Hurricane Harvey, an action plan for benzene release for the City of Houston, and a pilot study using mobile air monitoring.

Katlyn worked several years before attending graduate school at SPHIS. She was employed by a variety of different agencies as a research assistant, independent contractor, and as a technician in the areas of pharmacy, production, quality control, and fuels lab.

While working on her MPH, Katlyn decided that she wanted to focus more on research and further her education by obtaining a Ph.D. She said, “The education by SPHIS has aided me in study design, human subjects research, statistics, and applied science in human research. My degree has helped bridge my chemistry and public health backgrounds to do meaningful work in public health research.”

After graduating in May 2020 with a Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences with a specialization in Environmental Health, Katlyn hopes to work for a nonprofit such as the EDF or the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Her goals are to conduct research to help change policies at the national level, specially related to air pollutants.

She concluded by offering some advice to students who are just beginning their public health journey. She said, “Find the subject you are most passionate about in the broad field of public health and hone in on that. Connect with government, healthcare, nonprofits, academics, and communities to take part in projects. This will help you determine where you want to work and what skillsets are needed most in your field of interest.”

Katlyn also offered some advice for students who are just about to graduate. She said, “You have a versatile degree. I recommend searching job opportunities you are interested in to determine what skillsets you need to improve or find skills that you can highlight for successful hiring. Networking is vital in meeting people for future careers, but also for creating relationships, finding mentors, and receiving feedback on research as well.”

If you would like to connect with Katlyn, you can contact her via Twitter, @Commute2Nowhere, or LinkedIn.


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