Interview with Loreen Targos, MS ’15 - Physical Scientist, US Environmental Protection Agency
The Associate Director of UIC SPH Career Services, Liz Herrera, scheduled a visit to the US EPA to catch up with Loreen Targos, a UIC SPH alumna from the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences division. During this visit, Loreen provided a quick tour of the facilities, introduced Liz to some of her colleagues – including other UIC SPH alumni! Loreen and Liz sat down to talk about her current role at the EPA, her job search experience and shared career advice for current students and early public health careerists.
How soon after graduation did you secure your position at the US EPA?
I completed my thesis in March 2015 and secured my position at the US EPA in August 2015.
Can you share some of your job search strategies? The first step I took was to set-up an account and notification alert with https://www.usajobs.gov/. I made sure to tailor my resume and cover letter for every job application. In addition, I used LinkedIn to identify key people and conducted informational interviews. I was able to connect with someone at the US EPA after my job interview and received valuable insight about the overall organization.
How did you prepare for the job interview? I thoroughly read the job description and identified skills that I possessed as well as competencies that I gained through my academic training. In particular, I have found that my Organic and Environmental Chemistry courses have been very relevant to the position. In areas of the job description where I did not feel as prepared, I took the initiative to take free online tutorials to strengthen my knowledge. I wanted to make sure that I could address the qualifications during the job interview.
Can you describe your main functions as a Physical Scientist?
I serve as a Project Officer for the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO), mostly for contracts serving the directives laid out in the Great Lakes Legacy Act. I act as a liaison between GLNPO project managers, EPA contract officers and specialists, and contractors as we collectively work towards our goal of remediating contaminated sediments and eliminating Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) in Areas of Concern (AOCs) in the Great Lakes basin.
What is a typical day for you?
The exiting thing about my job is that I get to be involved in a great number of the projects moving forward in GLNPO on any given day to ensure that resources are being moved in time to complete work during the short field season. To learn more about the Great Lakes projects, visit http://www.greatlakesmud.org/.
On occasion, I go out to the field to do data collection on one of our vessels: the MuddPuppy II (vessel) to collect sediment cores & characterize the contamination at potential project site, or the Lake Guardian to participate in routine spring or summer surveys to ensure consistent monitoring of the state of the Great Lakes.
What is the company culture like?
I work for a great organization and have supervisors that help foster success. I have found it easy to get support as needed.
What advice do you have for current UIC SPH students? Building relationships & networking is very important. (I recommend the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”) Be sure to conduct informational interviews and find mentors. I encourage students to take the StrengthsFinder assessment. This tool was very valuable in my self-marketing while on the job search. Lastly, be mindful of your digital footprint. Some of my colleagues shared with me that they “Googled” me while I was a candidate for the position.