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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

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2011 EPA Summer Student Internship Program a Great Success

This summer, EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office hosted more than 30 student interns. In early August, each of the interns presented the results of their research projects in six-minute presentations. In addition, 11 of the EPA interns participated with 11 other student interns from NASA-Ames in Silicon Valley in three group projects and informal meetings at each agency.

Muhammed Abdul-Shakoor

Muhammed Abdul-Shakoor

This unusually large group of students participated in an innovative program that EPA hopes to repeat in 2012. Each student performed a rigorous and complex individual project supervised by EPA experts, and participated in speaker series events, field trips, and both individual and group skill-building assignments. 

"We're proud that this year we had an unprecedented number of interns doing specific projects that contributed to EPA's mission and goals," said Laura Mayo, Special Assistant in the Office of the Regional Administrator. "Their work on these challenging, ambitious projects has been very valuable to the Agency, and we look forward to improving on this summer's program in the future."

Throughout their time at EPA, these students were supported by program coordinators Matt Salazar, Jose Garcia, Susanne Perkins, and Sharon Lin. Shirley Rivera coordinated the interns' final presentations of their projects. 

The 11 EPA interns who participated in programs with NASA-Ames demonstrated a successful model for future group project work under EPA mentors.  Interns selected three group projects from a menu suggested by EPA staff, and organized themselves according to interest:

 Cindy Liles, Jodi Shi, Matthew Enriquez, Sarah Bates

Packaging Efficiency for Goods Movement group:
Cindy Liles, Jodi Shi, Matthew Enriquez, Sarah Bates

  • Under the guidance of mentor Penny McDaniel of the Air Division, interns Sarah Bates, Matthew Enriquez, Cindy Liles, and Jodi Shi studied ways to reduce emissions associated with goods movement by reducing packaging.
  • Barbara Maco of the Superfund Division mentored interns Pamela Barclay, Francisco Morales, Hugh Green, and Francisco Vargas as they looked for ways to incorporate greener practices in local and federal emergency operations. The Team identified a number of partnership opportunities with NASA Ames and the NASA Research Park, particularly in the areas of communications, resiliency, and sustainable power generation and storage. 
  • Omer Shalev of the Air Division mentored interns Alison Fong, Ray Rothwell, and Jeffrey Wong as they examined new policies and guidance for air districts to encourage renewable energy technologies like fuel cells in air quality non-attainment areas such as California's South Coast and San Joaquin Valley.
Francisco Vargas, Francisco Morales, Hugh Green, Pam Barclay

Greening Emergency Operations group:
Francisco Vargas, Francisco Morales,
Hugh Green, Pam Barclay

On July 19, NASA-Ames Director Dr. Pete Worden joined Region 9 Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld and interns from both agencies to sign a Statement of Intent that lays the groundwork for future collaboration on student internships, building on this summer's activities. The collaboration involves developing joint curricula and presentations, matching students with agency mentors, and creating educational and leadership development opportunities.

Summaries of Individual Projects

Sonam Gill, a graduate student at the University of San Francisco (USF), worked with EPA’s Environmental Justice Team to identify the most vulnerable communities in the San Joaquin Valley, with particular focus on low income, minority and child populations. This allowed her to quantify vulnerability data, which incorporates social justice along with public health so that it can be cost-effective for communities.

Rashi Goel, studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology, assisted Superfund by producing a detailed remedial investigation report for the New Idria Mercury Mine in San Benito County, Calif. She was able to visit the site, conduct research, and analyze data on mercury contamination from the mine. The site is likely to be listed on EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List for toxic waste cleanups.

 Alison Fong, Ray Rothwell, Jeffrey Wong

Fuel Cells for Backup Power group:
Alison Fong, Ray Rothwell, Jeffrey Wong

Lawrence Reichle, a University of Michigan School of Public Health graduate student, contributed to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) regional analysis, part of a national database on use and disposal of more than 600 toxic chemicals from thousands of U.S. facilities. He helped develop fact sheets showing how TRI data can be easily used by the public while incorporating environmental justice issues. Lawrence also assisted with lead enforcement efforts by drafting an information sheet for local municipalities who wish to incorporate federal lead paint regulations into local policy, regulation or statute.

Degen Kelly, an Environmental Science major at USF, put together an economic analysis of land-based trash that ends up as marine debris. The goal was to quantify the cost incurred by local governments to manage marine debris. He conducted hundreds of interviews and obtained detailed cost data from 15 cities. His analysis, which could be instrumental in driving more source reduction ordinances and policies, found that cities were annually spending approximately $12.00 per person to capture and clean up litter before it reaches the ocean.

Rashi Goel

Rashi Goel

Pamela Barclay, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, worked in EPA’s Clean Energy and Climate Change Office developing a best practices guide for medium-and heavy-duty truck fleets to incorporate alternative vehicles and technologies into their vehicle pool to reduce diesel emissions. She was also part of a group that researched ways to integrate sustainable technologies and processes into emergency operations.

Hugh Green, an Environmental Studies major at Atlanta's Emory University, worked in EPA’s Clean Water Act Compliance Office analyzing data from California's ten biggest cities on Sewer Sanitary Overflows (SSOs), and assisting with an enforcement action in Southern California's I-710 Corridor. Among other findings, he reported that San Francisco has been failing to report SSOs.

Francisco Morales, an Environmental Science major at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., supported the Region’s efforts to advance greener cleanups at Superfund military bases through collaborations with the Department of Defense, to quantify the environmental footprint and conduct best practices. Francisco was also part of the EPA/NASA team on Greening Emergency Operations in the areas of preparedness, resiliency, mobility, communications and power generation.

Sarah Bates, an Environmental Engineering major at UC Riverside, evaluated the potential uses of personal air monitoring devices for the Air Quality Analysis office. The project’s aim was to direct the future use of personal air monitors and to look at how the data gathered by these devices could be beneficial to both community members and to state, local, and federal agencies. Currently she is helping to develop the criteria needed to design a pilot project using these devices as well as coordinating EPA’s contribution to a multi-stakeholder meeting to help move personal monitoring forward. She also took part in a group project with NASA and the West Coast [Diesel] Collaborative on packaging efficiency and goods movement. The assignment was to assess how a reduction of packaging could reduce tailpipe emissions from trucks used to transport goods.

Timothy "Degen" Kelly

Linda Ye Zou, an Environmental Engineering major at UC San Diego, worked with the city of Richmond to create an inventory of all possible locations for photovoltaic solar power development. She collected and mapped brownfields, greyfields, and sizable rooftops, analyzing slope, shading, area, ownership, zoning, present use and contamination cleanup status.

Dawning Wu, an Environmental Sciences major at UC Berkeley, worked with EPA's Toxics Office to research and document healthy homes activities and organizations in Region 9. She created a "Healthy Homes Network"— several spreadsheets organizing her findings into an easy to access format. She also developed recommendations to improve the Tips and Complaints System for the [Lead Paint] Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule, and conducted a literature review on the lead-poisoning action level and level of concern.

Cindy Liles, an Environmental Science major at UC Riverside, worked in EPA's Pacific Islands Office compiling information on waste-to-energy systems to evaluate their potential use in places like Guam, American Samoa, and Saipan. Cindy also worked with NASA-Ames on a group project researching ways companies are reducing packaging and thereby reducing air pollution from goods movement.   

Amy Knorpp, an Environmental Engineering major at Stanford, prepared the Air Division's 260 Prevention of Significant Deterioration permits for San Joaquin Valley facilities to be turned over to the local Air District, helping eliminate duplication in the permit process.  She also collected air permits and other data on biomass facilities and created a spreadsheet for easy access to this data.

 Katherine He

Katherine He

Francisco Vargas, a UC Berkeley Mechanical Engineering major, introduced an EPA team to new statistical techniques for method comparison analysis of air sampling data. He also worked with air modelers, forecasters, and other data users to develop new criteria and recommendations to improve the quality of data collected by meteorological stations. In addition, he participated in the group project "Greening Emergency Operations".

Jodi Shi, a Stanford University graduate student in Civil and Environmental Engineering, worked with EPA’s Air Planning Office, analyzing California's Smog Check data for the last four years to see where improvements are needed. She also worked on a team project with NASA researching best practices for reducing emissions from goods packaging and distribution.  

Jennifer Sun, who is studying Science of Natural and Environmental Systems at Cornell University, designed a web-based, user-friendly tutorial to help tribal staff create better Water Quality Assessment Reports. This tutorial helps tribes make water quality assessment decisions, guiding users through the process of organizing, analyzing, and interpreting monitoring data. The tutorial will be available on the EPA website in September.

Katherine He, who is majoring in Environmental Sciences and French at UC Berkeley, provided support for Superfund toxic site cleanup managers. Projects included writing a sampling and analysis plan, conducting research on green remediation options, updating maps of contaminant distribution, and updating the EPA environmental footprint calculator's process for granular activated carbon regeneration.

Mariel Friberg, a master's degree student in Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, assisted the Water Division's Sustainable Infrastructure Office with multiple projects. One was updating the Waste to Biogas Mapping Tool, which shows the locations of potential sources, haulers, and producers. She also developed the new version of the Sustainable Infrastructure website, enabling states and communities to easily access information on wastewater project funding.

Emily Feeley, a Geography/Environmental Studies student at UCLA, worked with the Clean Energy and Climate Change Office and the West Coast Collaborative to develop a GIS application mapping goods movement areas, to help government agencies, communities, and organizations make better decisions on minimizing diesel emissions.

Charles A. Lee, who is majoring in microbial biology, international relations, and sociology at UC Berkeley, took on a variety of projects. He assisted press officers in creating e-media kits, our online one-stop shop for our stakeholders. He provided support for the Web team in managing/updating our Facebook/Twitter accounts. And he found a suitable software, EasyShare, that can optimize our ability to organize, archive, and tag photos.

Pam Barclay

Pam Barclay

Alex Ghenis, who is pursuing a master's degree in Public Policy at UC Berkeley, worked with Laura Bloch of Sustainable Region 9 to analyze and report the results of the recent employee survey on commuting and telecommuting. Alex used the data to calculate office-wide car-based carbon emissions, and propose ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

Alison Fong, an Environmental Engineering major at Stanford, was involved in two projects with the Marine Debris Team and the NASA-Ames group project to assess the viability of using fuel cell generators for backup power in air quality non-attainment areas. In the Japan Tsunami Debris project, she organized three multi-agency meetings, and helped develop an assessment strategy with ownership by multiple agencies. She also helped develop an agreement between EPA Region 9 and the Navy and Air Force on zero shipboard waste, beach cleanup and marine debris assessment.

Aris Dumbrys, who is pursuing a master's degree in bioenergy at the University of Illinois, revamped Region 9's Recycle City website—one of the Internet's top five most popular recycling sites—which had been virtually unchanged since it debuted in 1997.  He increased the social interactivity aspects, redesigned the look and feel, and laid the groundwork for updating and expanding the content and adding a new environmental learning game.

Linda Ye Zou

Linda Ye Zou

Deandra Smith, an Environmental Science major at Atlanta's Spelman College, developed a website with environmental health information for childcare providers, such as what to do about lead-based paint, how to clean up a broken compact fluorescent lightbulb, and greening your childcare center. She also assisted with an air quality project in West Oakland.

Elyssa Bairstow, an Environmental Science major at USF, worked with EPA Region 9 Lease Coordinator Peter Sullivan on our office building renovation project. She helped coordinate and plan meetings, and develop a web-based forum for project information and communication. She also created a spreadsheet outlining sustainability and health measures as stated in the procurement documents, and made suggestions to further improve sustainability and employee health.

Muhammed Abdul-Shakoor, an Environmental Engineering major at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, worked on three projects. He reviewed Superfund Records of Decision and Feasibility Studies to find how decisions were made to use Monitored Natural Attenuation as the remedial action. Secondly, he attached metadata to Region 9 Superfund files to make them more easily accessible to the public. His third project was a Carbon Footprint Analysis of the lead soil cleanup in West Oakland.

Leah Bross, who is majoring in Environment, Economics, and Politics/Legal Studies at Claremont McKenna College in Pomona, helped the Clean Water Act Compliance Office get started on the gargantuan task of assessing Region 9's 371 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer permittees and co-permittees. She created a database to track the progress of audits and enforcement actions, and collaborated with the nine California Regional Water Boards, as well as Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii agencies.

Matthew Enriquez, a Civil Engineering Major at Stanford, assisted Superfund with prioritizing cleanup of the hundreds of Abandoned Uranium Mines on the Navajo Nation. He analyzed technical documents, consolidating and creating data from varied sources, and visited high priority uranium mines. He also participated in the group project with NASA-Ames to find ways to decrease packaging in order to reduce diesel emissions from transportation.

Tiffany K. Cheng, an Environmental Engineering major at MIT in Massachusetts, worked with the Air Quality Analysis Office to create a remote sensing toolkit for state and local agencies to use in exceptional events analysis. Specifically, she looked at particulate pollution data from wildfires, using satellite data for aerosols, demonstrating the advantages and limitations of the data through several case studies involving multiple stakeholders.

Jared talks with interns

Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator, talks with Alison Fong (right) and other interns about their projects.

Jeffrey Wong, an Environmental Science major at UC Berkeley, developed a PCB (Polychlorinated BiPhenyl) congener testing guidance.  When exposed to the environment, PCBs can change to become more toxic. To quantify this change requires congener analysis that looks at each PCB molecule. Since this costs much more than the conventional method, EPA needs criteria to decide which sites need PCB congener analyses. Jeffrey compiled a list of site characteristics that require this.  

Ray Rothwell, a graduate student in Geographic Information Science at San Francisco State University, worked to streamline targeting for hazardous waste assessment and inspections by designing a mapping tool that pulls data from EPA and State of California databases, and combines them. This data is then processed to find priority areas and identifies inspection targets, saving time and money for EPA, DTSC, and other agencies.

Carol Lu, a master's degree student in public policy at Princeton University, worked jointly with Cara Peck in Region 9 and David Widawsky in EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC to research and analyze the dairy biogas market. She participated in nearly 30 meetings with people working on diary biogas. Using information gleaned from these conversations, as well as academic articles, she constructed a narrative about key business trends and financing issues in the industry, and made recommendations for both Region 9 and Headquarters. Carol presented these findings to the Region 9 biogas work group as well as EPA’s Chief Financial Officer, and is now completing a report on them.

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