Summertime Standouts: Kaitie Workman

Water flows through environmental health student’s internship

Kaitie Workman standing outside
Environmental health student Kaitie Workman is spending her summer collecting water samples with the Oakland County Health Division in Michigan. (Provided by Kaitie Workman)

Summer internships help students gain clarity about how they want to apply their education. For environmental health student Kaitie Workman, you might say “a river runs through it.”

Workman’s experience as a student sanitarian intern collecting water samples has helped shape her post-graduation plans. She realized that she prefers the laboratory to the field, and that her love of water flows through her career plans.

She has spent the summer working for the Oakland County Health Division in Michigan, collecting water samples at various lakes. They take the samples back to the lab, where they’re tested for bacteria. If there’s a high enough level of bacteria detected in the sample, that lake’s designated swim or recreational beach is closed until bacteria levels drop and the county can determine the cause of elevated bacteria.

“With the water samples we’re bringing in, the lab runs different tests to try to determine why a lake has elevated levels of bacteria,” said Workman, senior environmental health student. “It turns into an investigation, and I would like to do more of that hands-on lab work.”

“I’ve always been very drawn to water. I’m interested in where the flow is going.”

— Kaitie Workman

Michigan lake
The Oakland County Health Division in Michigan collects and tests water samples from lakes in the area. (Provided by Kaitie Workman)

While Workman’s responsibility is to collect the samples, she’s realized that what she’s really interested in is doing the actual testing of those samples. The flexibility of her internship exposes her to different roles and responsibilities throughout the division, so even though her current role isn’t in the lab, she’s able to explore that side of the operation and her personal interest in water issues.

Kaitie Workman collected ticks
Kaitie Workman collected ticks as part of a shadowing opportunity. (Provided by Kaitie Workman)

“I’ve always been very drawn to water,” said Workman, who grew up in Buena Vista, in the Arkansas River valley and worked as a rafting guide. “I’m interested in where the flow is going, and how that plays into cities and water rights. At the end of the day, what we’re protecting is that we have water to drink. I want to protect our water.”

She appreciates the opportunity to work with a variety of people in her internship: “The most valuable piece is the interaction piece. I’m getting a lot of people skills.”

Workman credits the faculty and advisers in the environmental health program for making sure students have a good learning experience during their internships. “I feel very prepared for this internship, I came in experienced and prepared, and ready for a fully professional position. I give 100 percent credit to our professors for how they prepared us for the real world,” said Workman, who will graduate in August.

As she heads into the real world with a Bachelor of Science in environmental health, water remains an essential element in her plans. “I think it’s very fascinating – where we get our drinking water from and where that water then goes. I want to focus on water pollution and getting into operational water systems with my long-term career.”

About Summertime Standouts

Summertime Standouts is an annual feature on SOURCE that highlights students who made an impact this summer around the globe, across the country, and even close to home.

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