Deborah Myers, Ph.D., E.I.
Senior Assistant Engineer
I am actually a lieutenant (O-3) in the U.S. Public Health Service under the Department of Health and Human Services. I am currently working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati, Ohio as a research engineer.
Been There: (# of years):
One year and three months
# of employees:
about 1400 employees (This includes Atlanta, Cincinnati, Spokane, Morgantown, Washington D.C., Pittsburg)
While in graduate school, I was employed with the Birmingham Water Works Sewer Board in Alabama for two years as a pilot plant coordinator. I ran a pipe loop study with water from the Birmingham distribution system. The study examined the effectiveness of corrosion control practices (chloramines versus chlorine as a disinfectant) on 11 different water chemistry variations, including identifying which corrosion inhibitor was best in controlling the rate of corrosion in the pipes.
Shortly after graduation, I started working at BE&K Government Group in Birmingham, Alabama as a project-manager-in-training and corporate environmental officer. My job was to write stormwater pollution prevention and environmental protection plans.
How did you first get into engineering?
By accident! I really wanted to be an architect, but the University of Alabama at Birmingham did not have that particular program. So I picked the next best thing—civil and environmental engineering. I absolutely fell in love with engineering. I look back now and see I was born an engineer. I would break my brother's calculators and other gadgets, and design my Barbie’s dream houses.
If you weren’t an engineer you’d be ….
Ornithologist. I absolutely love birds. In fact, I have a picture of my pet bird, Seth, in my office!
What’s your peak experience as an engineer so far?
Working with colleagues on the effects of diacetyl and other flavorings in food production to workers. Young workers in food production industries are developing an uncommon lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, from working around food flavorings. To see the passion in my colleagues and their efforts to control flavoring exposures and help prevent the growing numbers of workers developing this disease has shown me that engineers can do a lot to protect the public's health. I went from working in the water industry to construction to working with industry and reducing worker exposures to harmful chemicals. It is amazing to know engineers can be used in about every field imaginable!
What do you value in the people you work with?
I value the people I work with very much. I work with experts in a wide range of industries, such as control technology, hearing loss prevention, and aerosol research. I have been very fortunate to work with my colleagues daily and to learn how their skills and dedication got them to become well renowned in their field of study.
What do you think engineering firms need to do to attract younger generations into the engineering industry?
We are losing our engineers. I think we lose them in school, throughout high school and college. Engineering firms need to begin recruiting in high school when students are deciding what college they want to go to and what field to study. Sparking the students' interest at this age is key. We also lose them in college when course work becomes difficult and when recruiting companies do not offer enough benefits. The best thing companies can do is mentor young engineers. The younger generation of engineers want to know they are helping the community in some way. If the companies can show how their engineers service the community, maybe the number of engineers will increase again.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me means mentoring constantly and continuous learning. Leaders should continue to mentor the members of their team. And most of all, a leader should always be willing to learn something new and teach the lesson learned to others.
Leaders you admire?
I admire my mother, who is a retired captain of the United States Public Health Service and nurse practitioner. She was the supervisor of a rural health clinic for many years before retiring. I admire my team, branch, and division leaders. They supervise many people and they always take time out to ask you how you are doing that day. I also admire the President of the United States.
Web site you can’t go a day without visiting
MSN, because I can get a summary of the daily news in one page.
Something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I used to be a dancer. I traveled to Paris, France, in high school to perform at Disneyland Paris and had an opportunity to dance in Hawaii and Super Bowl XXXIV.
You wake up tomorrow as CEO of your firm—what’s the first thing you’d change?
I would probably introduce mentoring programs into the local middle and high schools. I would also try to find ways to increase the public's awareness of NIOSH since our goal is to perform research that protect the health of the workers. We are often confused with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is a regulatory agency.
Finish this sentence: In 10 years, I will have…
A husband and children, my PE license, CIH certification, gone up in rank to commander (O-5), mentored young engineers and high school students interested in engineering, and published many reports on the effectiveness of engineering control technology to reduce workers’ exposures to occupational safety and health hazards, such as "lifeguard lung" from exposure to chloramines in indoor swimming pool facilities.
Book you can’t go a year without rereading?
The Bible and, for some reason my biostatistics book. As a research engineer, understanding statistics is very very important because it tells you as the researcher and the audience if the results from your research are significant.
How do you strike a work/life balance?
At times it is hard find a balance between your personal life and work. I make a point of never taking work home. If I have a deadline, then I stay later to finish the assignment. I know as my career progresses there may be times I will have to take work home but I am trying not to make it a habit now so it will not be hard to break later when I have a family.
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