Area of EXPERTISE: Industrial Hygiene

Each day an average of 15 people die due to workplace hazards in the United States alone. Led by Prof. Kathie Hammond, UC Berkeley’s graduate program in Industrial Hygiene trains technical professionals and scientists committed to preventing job-related disease and injury. Industrial hygiene is the science and art of recognizing, evaluating, and controlling exposure to harmful agents in the workplace. The goal of the Industrial Hygiene (IH) Program is to educate committed and passionate industrial hygienists with both a firm theoretical background to enable growth and flexibility in our rapidly changing world and a good grasp of the practical aspects of the field to implement this knowledge as practitioners (M.S. and M.P.H. students) and researchers (Ph.D. students).

M.P.H. students in the IH Program normally complete coursework and an internship in two academic years, while M.S. students generally complete coursework and a research thesis or project in two academic years. The EHS IH program provides students with a multi-disciplinary approach to analyzing and solving occupational and environmental health problems, along with the requisite knowledge foundation and basic technical skills. The knowledge foundation and problem-solving skills are gained through hands-on practice with monitoring equipment, for instance in the “Characterization of Airborne Contaminants” and the “Exposure Assessment and Control II: Control Ventilation and Physical Agents” courses. Additional experience can come from our “Occupational Safety” and “Case Fatality Analysis” courses, and through participation in the “Occupational Health Clinic” and “Workplace Site Visits”.

Although the M.P.H. degree is not research-oriented, M.P.H. IH students have ample opportunity to participate in academic research if they choose. Faculty members have research grants and contracts on which students can participate for independent study credit or as funded Graduate Student Researchers; EHS faculty currently have numerous occupational health related research grants from NIOSH, NIEHS, Alpha (mining), and the Michael J Fox Foundation. Student initiated projects include those funded by the NIOSH Targeted Research Traineeship (TRT), which requires competitive applications from students, and the COEH Llewellyn Student Award, a competitive interdisciplinary (e.g., industrial hygiene and nursing) project grant that awards up to $5,000 for students from two or more different program areas. One recent project is a study of pesticide exposure among horse trainers that is a collaboration between an UC Berkeley IH student and a UC Davis epidemiology student.

Ph.D. students with interests in IH normally complete coursework in two to three years, and complete a research project and dissertation in four to six years overall. There are no formal course requirements for the PhD IH students other than the “Doctoral Seminar” (PH 293), which is usually taken several times, and “Integrity in the Conduct of Research” (PH 276).  For their Graduate Group Examination the students are expected to know the material taught in the required courses for the EHS MPH students and most PhD students take these courses unless they have learned the material previously.  In general, other coursework for a PhD student is designed to provide academic knowledge geared to the dissertation project, and to fulfill the course requirements of two minor subjects as suggested by the student’s dissertation committee members. Industrial hygiene related dissertation topics in the past years include:

  • Exposure to Manganese from Agricultural Pesticide Use and Neuro Development in Young Children

  • Monitoring Particulate Matter with Commodity Hardware

  • Spatiotemporal Exposure Modeling & Epidemiological Analyses of the 2008 Northern CA Wildfires

  • Design & Applications of Anti Albumin-Adduct Antibodies to Assess Human Exposure to Aromatic Hydrocarbons

  • Improving Sensitivity and Specificity when Measuring Environmental Exposure to Engineered Nanoparticle Releases with the use of Low-Background Techniques

  • Association between wrist angle and carpal tunnel syndrome among workers

  • Effects of Computer Display on Health and Productivity

  • Assessing the Exposure and Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke in Restaurants and Bars by Workers and Patrons & Evaluating the Efficacy of Different Smoking Policies in Beijing Restaurants and Bars

  • A longitudinal study of wrist tendinosis in Blue Collar Workers

  • Assessing Exposures to Particulate Matter and Manganese in Welding Fumes

Interdisciplinary Interactions
There are regular interactions among IH students, ergonomics students, occupational epidemiology students, occupational health nursing students and occupational medicine residents.

Career Opportunities

Industrial Hygienists generally work as part of a team involving physicians, nurses, safety professionals, toxicologists, epidemiologists, and engineers. The team integrates the expertise of these public health specialties to work effectively with exposed populations to prevent health damage. Graduates with the MPH degree have a valuable skill set that is in steady demand for occupational and environmental safety and health positions. Often they have a career choice either to develop their technical skills or broaden into supervisor or management positions.

Our alumni work in public sector such as regulatory agencies (e.g. CalOSHA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), scientific agencies (e.g. the California Department of Health Services and the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health) and universities, and large public agencies to carry out a variety of activities, including on-site inspections to ensure compliance with standards, risk assessment, standards development, and providing consultation services; to conduct research or perform field studies involving exposure assessment and control; and to protect their employees and ensure compliance with regulations.

Many graduates work with private employers to develop and implement company health and safety plans to protect employees and ensure compliance with OSHA and other regulations. Some companies rely on private consultants for exposure assessment and design of controls. Many alumni find exciting careers with these consulting firms.

Financial Aid/NIOSH Traineeship

For the past 35 years we have supported our students through a training grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This support generally covers both years of the masters' programs. Ph.D. students combine a traineeship with research funding arranged in coordination with faculty.

Required Courses

For a list of course requirements, please consult the student handbook. Click this link to view a sample of a Two-Year Curriculum for a MPH IH Student.