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The Department of Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) at CSUN is the largest accredited EOH program in the nation, and CSUN EOH graduates attain leadership positions in virtually every area of the profession. One of the reasons students graduate practice-ready is the extensive experience they get performing research with faculty both in the laboratory and out in the community. “We are devoted to understanding the relationship between human health and the environment,” said Dr. Tom Hatfield, faculty and chair of the department. “Whether the issue is pollution, dealing with hazardous waste, making sure food is safe for consumption or health and safety issues in industrial settings, EOH professionals look for practical actions that protect human health.”
A recent gift from Lockheed-Martin to the department and the EOH Student Association (EOHSA) will enhance the students’ academic experience by strengthening research opportunities in toxicological sciences. The funding will also help students make the connection between the academic environment and the professional workplace.
EOHSA organizes and sponsors events, both on and off campus, to bring together students and professionals in the fields of health and human services, environmental health, and occupational health and safety. Students take off-campus workplace tours, welcome guest speakers to campus, establish mentoring and, in collaboration with the department’s alumni chapter, organize professional growth opportunities such as the Annual CSUN EOH Technological Symposium.
Dr. Tony Machado has expertise in molecular toxicology and specializes in gene-environment interactions. Undergraduate students learn to perform specialized research techniques in the toxicology lab – they are getting the kind of experience most wouldn’t get before graduate school. “You have to spend time in the lab if you’re going to be a toxicologist,” Machado said. “No matter how much or how carefully you study what you read, it’s the experimentation, the detailed study, it’s appreciating the small differences in molecular events that generate big changes at the cellular level that make an expert in toxicology,” he said. “The support Lockheed Martin provides for the lab component of our program is part of the reason we have graduates being invited into Ph.D. programs at some of the most prestigious universities in the US. It’s the reason our students are everywhere in the environmental and occupational health field. In fact, companies come to us looking for professionals because our graduates are so well regarded in the field,” Machado said.
“CSUN EOH and the Lockheed Martin community both benefit from this relationship,” said Hatfield. “First, several current Lockheed Martin employees at the Palmdale facility are students or alumni of our program and when they were students, they were members of the EOHSA. Lockheed knows that by supporting our students now, they’re adding to a pool of future employees with experience and knowledge of the effects of hazardous materials on the human body.”
Community outreach is a common interest shared by CSUN EOH and Lockheed Martin. “We work together to strengthen communities and their environmental and health and human services programs,” said Hatfield. “And as we provide students with opportunities to visit workplaces like the facilities at Lockheed Martin, they can see further down the road into their careers.”
- Jean O'Sullivan