Archive for the ‘ Environmental Health ’ Category

Introducing Toxicology … and me …

My name is Tina De Giso and I have been in Colorado for a little over a year. Since late summer of 2011, I have been lucky enough to be
able to slave away…err…work hard toward a Master’s in Science in Environmental Health, specializing in Toxicology here at Colorado State University. My hope is that through this blog and this upcoming year, I will be able to share all the craziness that comes with  finishing that process.

Now, as for a background on who I am: I am a hapa SoCal girl from the sunny city of San Diego, California (where it does. Not. Snow…). I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor in Science degree in Neuroscience from UCLA. I took two after graduation to work in a hospital in the radiology department. After working two years on the night shift (and boy, do I have crazy stories from that time…I love sick people), I decided that coming back to school was something I definitely wanted to pursue.

Why Toxicology? No…wait, the first question I always get is: what IS toxicology? For all of you uninitiated souls, toxicology is the study of how natural or man-made poisons cause adverse effects in living organisms. As to the why this program…? Well, my ultimate goal is to enter Medicine, and with my two years’ experience in Radiology, Toxicology seemed to be in line with what I went through. Diagnostic Medicine was like being surrounded by map readers of the body (except the maps where all made from radiation and written in a foreign language that I wanted to learn). Although I may have yet to have had the decoder ring for those maps, the program here has opened up so many other options on exploring and explaining what is going on in the body. Since coming here, I have had the opportunity to expand not only my knowledge in science (and my nerd impact factor is at least a 13 now), but have the pleasure of getting to know some A-MAZING faculty members. As large as my undergraduate school was, this program is unique in the fact that you truly get one-on-one time with your professors. They WANT the students not only to succeed, but to flourish. Regardless of where our end career goals are in life, they want to get us there.

As for my daily dose of life here at CSU here is an outline:

  1. Fall out of bed (the floor rushing to my face is a great wake-up call)
  2. Gym (yup, 6 days a week)
  3. Work (I work for an office on campus known as: Student Leadership, Involvement & Community Engagement)
  4. Class (I AM a student)
  5. Lab (I am so blessed! I get to study PD in Dr. Tjalken’s lab. I LOVE THE BRAIN)
  6. Work (I work for our Department as a Student Coordinator)
  7. Work (I also work for a couple of business off-campus)
  8. Study (I AM A STUDENT!!)
  9. Cook (ya, I have to pack all my meals so that sometime in between all of THAT [insert exhausted pointing finger at the rest of the list] I can eat something)
  10. Sleep (if lucky)
  11. Repeat

So, I will say good-bye for now, but I look forward to sharing my adventures this year.



Last Week of Internship!

At the end of this week I will be completed with my internship here at the CDC in Atlanta.  I was able to take a tour of the Emergency Operations Center.  Currently the EOC here at the CDC is working on Deepwater Horizon (Gulf Oil Spill), the earthquake in Haiti and H1N1.  The EOC was amazing because they had these televisions screens that filled an entire wall that monitored many different things.  One screen was monitoring all of the weather alerts across the entire country.  It was cool to see that because I could tell where there were flood warnings and many places that were under a heat advisory (including Atlanta).  It has been incredibly hot all summer here.  Also, there was a screen that was a map of the enter world.  This map showed any disease outbreak that was currently occurring and how many cases there were at the time.  It was pretty cool to see that because I never realized how many different outbreaks are occurring at one time throughout the world.  Each event that the EOC is dealing with such as the Haiti earthquake, H1N1 and Deepwater Horizon also get their own monitoring screen.   I really enjoyed getting a tour of this facility and seeing it in operation.

This summer I have been exposed to many new things and I have learned a lot.  I have been able to explore the issues with pesticides in  our food supply and the problems associated with the pesticides that are buried in other countries.  Since I was working in the Chemical Weapons Elimination Branch, I was able to see the issues that our country is facing with the disposal of these weapons.  I was even able to get an in-depth look at one specific facility.  It is amazing how these weapons are destroyed and how damaging it would be if they were ever released into the environment.  Throughout the summer I have also had many opportunities to network with the employees at the CDC.  I have gained some great recommendations and they have provided me with great advice as I enter into the job market and into graduate school.

Living in Atlanta was also a new experience.  I was able to see many of the tourist attractions here and meet many new people.  It was great to be living at Emory University with hundreds of other interns from around the country.  I have really enjoyed this summer and I will be happy to be coming back to Colorado!

Animal Handling

I believe that everyone has at least one irrational fear. Whether they’re heights, needles or blood everyone has one, and everyone has to face them at some point or another. When I was younger I was terrified of snakes. And spiders. Oh, and bleach (don’t ask). But now, with the help of the Maryland Zoo I have been able to conquer, some, of my fears.

Part of my internship at the Animal Embassy in the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore involves animal handling. The animals kept at the Embassy as used for educational purposes and are used to contact with humans. The remaining animals in the zoo are certainly not accustomed to being handled by people.  There are four levels of animal handling, with each animal being assigned to a level based on difficulty. So the African black-footed penguins are level four, whereas the hissing cockroaches are level one. I’m proud to say that I’ve begun training on level three animals, which include our Eastern Screech Owls, Chinese Alligator, Boa Constrictor and the Kookaburra.

When I took the level two animal handling test, my mother recoiled at the idea of me working with a Corn Snake and Ball Python, while she was very pleased to hear about the Giant Flemish Rabbits. Ten years ago, I would have never thought about being ten feet close to a snake, much less having one on my arm. It’s funny to think that I’d be using bleach, holding snakes, and being in awe of spiders now. I’m glad I’ve overcome some of my fears at this internship while just…doing my job. However, I don’t believe I’ll have the opportunity to get over acrophobia at the zoo anytime soon.

Til next time,


FDA Training and More Food

This week I was able to work on a variety of things, most of them having to do with food. On Monday, I went down to Albuquerque and then off to Laguna to survey food stands at their feast day. Feasts are always a good way to start of the week because who doesn’t enjoy some homemade green chili? On Wednesday and Thursday I attended a FDA training focusing on food inspections for temporary food vendors. The training was primarily lecture based with some group activities. The most interesting presentation highlighted the strategy the state of New Mexico uses to inspect temporary events. I learned about an event they have every year in January – The Matanza. The Matanza is a social gathering in which live pigs are butchered and their parts are cooked up and served to the public to judge for best taste. There’s obviously many food safety issues with this type of celebration, but the state has made some improvements – putting foil under the hanging hides used for chicharones and replacing old wooden tables with smooth plastic tables for the butchering. Today I was able to inspect some food booths at the Teseque Flea Market, which was really fun because we were able to do a little shopping after we finished our surveys. I’m looking forward to dinner at my supervisor’s house tonight and white water rafting in Taos tomorrow!

My Last Days as a DOE Intern

Wow, this summer really has gone by fast!  I started the month of June as an intern for the Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management in Grand Junction, CO.  And now it is over already.  I was able to visit some really cool sites that are managed by DOE-LM and by DOE-EM.  All in all, I went to 10 different sites in 5 states.  Now that is a lot of traveling!  A lot of those were day trips though and were relatively close to GJ.  Some of the longer trips were to Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Here is a complete list of my site visits in chronological order:

–Green River, UT

–Grand Junction Disposal Cell

–Central Nevada Test Area

–Shoal Site, NV

–Monticello, UT

–Rifle, CO

–Uranium Leasing Program Sites

–Shiprock, NM

–Monument Valley, AZ

–Moab, UT

Yesterday I completed my research project about compliance issues of uranium in the underlying aquifer at the Old Rifle Processing site and I gave a PowerPoint presentation to my mentor and most of the other federal staff here.  After my talk, my mentor asked me “Have you considered working for the federal government?”  🙂  That made me happy!  Now I must bid you adieu.  Good-bye!

Moving a Mountain in Moab

Entrance Sign

It is about a 2 hour drive to Moab from Grand Junction.  Mark, one of the feds organized this trip for the interns and one of the new site managers on board.  (She spent many many years with the Yucca Mountain project, but we all know how that ended…).  We had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Don Metzler, a Level 4 Federal Project Director (there aren’t very many of those).  He oversees the billion dollar Moab UMTRA site.  The basic gist is that there is a 16 million ton pile of legacy uranium mill tailings sitting next to the Colorado River in Moab, UT.  Because of political factors and public concern it is being moved 30 miles north to Crescent Junction to be laid to rest in a disposal cell.   There is actually another USDOE office here in downtown Grand Junction, which I didn’t know about.  That is where Don sits with his staff; he is part of the Office of Environmental Management, not LM. Don is a very charismatic man and we were able to sit with him in the conference trailer in Moab and listen to the story of how this project manifested itself.  The public relations officer was also there to answer questions.  After hearing the story of the Moab UMTRA site, we hopped into an SUV and toured the site.  It was an amazing operation! Continue reading

Food Handlers Training

This morning I had my first chance to give a food handlers training. It is required to attend the training to learn about food safety and pass a food handlers test in order to sell on tribal lands, so we get a lot of requests for these trainings. The training is about an hour and a half long – the longest presentation I’ve ever had to give. The presentation went well and all ten people passed the test, so I was happy about that!

Earlier in the week, my coworkers and I were able to meet with a pubic health nurse and discuss collaborating on piloting an asthma program in one or two of the pueblos we serve. It was really interesting to hear her perspectives, and get an idea of what role public health nurses play in the community. I’ve also been working on a lot of food survey reports and I’m getting to know the FDA food code quite intimately. As my internship end day approaches – only 3 more weeks! – I’m starting to wrap up a lot of projects and I’m definitely keeping busy. This weekend I’m looking forward to swimming at Nambe Falls and watching the chicken pull at Santo Domingo Pueblo!