Students Experience Science at Work With UHL Job Shadowing

Armen Hareyan's picture

Area high school students experienced the working world of science March 8 during a job-shadowing program at the University Hygienic Laboratory (UHL) in Iowa City. Coordinated by the Workplace Learning Connection, the onsite observations gave the juniors and seniors a preview of careers in chemistry and microbiology at the state's public health and environmental laboratory.

Donning laboratory coats and safety goggles, the students looked through high-powered microscopes for asbestos in building materials; viewed diagnostic testing for infectious diseases; operated a Geiger Mueller meter to scan for radiation; participated in biological and chemical terrorism response and safety overview; and learned about computer-based programs used for organic analysis.

Students who participated in job shadowing at UHL are Michael Carter, English Valleys High School; Caitlin McGowan, Iowa City West High School; and Jack Smith, Clear Creek-Amana High School.


"Education is an important component of the Hygienic Laboratory mission," said UHL Interim Director Chris Atchison. "Job shadowing is an opportunity for UHL staff to pass on their expertise to the next generation of scientists."

The job shadowing experience gives students with an interest in science a real-world view of careers in which they might envision themselves.

"The University Hygienic Laboratory is providing these students with an excellent opportunity to explore science related careers while still in high school," said Jennifer Ott, the Workplace Learning Connection special projects coordinator. "Students who take advantage of this opportunity are better prepared to pick a college major and are more realistic about the skills they will need for their future success."

The Workplace Learning Connection is an intermediary organization partnering with educators, employers and communities to prepare eastern Iowa students to enter and succeed in the new world of work. The Workplace Learning Connection provides career exploration activities such as career speakers and worksite tours, job shadowing and internships for kindergarten through 12th-grade students and their teachers. Begun in June 1998, the Workplace Learning Connection operates under a nonprofit affiliation of Kirkwood Community College and the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, serving 35 public and private school districts and employers throughout Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington counties.

The University Hygienic Laboratory is the state of Iowa's environmental and public health laboratory, with facilities located on the University of Iowa's Oakdale Campus in Iowa City and at the Iowa Lab Facilities in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb. Among its many services, the laboratory functions as a consultative and analytical support facility for state agencies, health professionals, and citizens. The UHL is part of the University of Iowa and has developed and maintained effective and productive collaborations with the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Geological Survey, and local public health agencies. The UHL performs analyses on samples from virtually all matrices, including human clinical specimens, air, drinking water, wastewater, soil, sediment, industrial effluents, oil and fish. In addition to performing analyses by specified methods, the UHL provides methods development and procedure verification for nonroutine analyses. Additional information about UHL, its programs and services is available online at