Associate Professor of Engineering Technology
What year did you start working at NIU?
Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is West Chicago, Illinois. I presently live in Lemont, Illinois.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I have a B.A. in chemistry from Loyola University Chicago and an M.S. and Ph.D. in occupational and environmental health sciences from the UIC School of Public Health.
In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Engineering Technology
What do you like about working at NIU?
I like the students here. I struggled in high school and college, and I really like to help students succeed, graduate and start their careers. NIU is also a friendly work environment where everyone is willing to help. You just need to ask.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Reach out for help. This includes fellow students, faculty, staff and student support services. I've personally gotten help from the University Writing Center (as have many other faculty). Ask questions. I see that as a sign of intelligence and curiosity. Faculty are constantly seeking help from their peers at NIU and other institutions.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I teach environmental health and safety. All of my courses are centered on engaged learning projects. Students this semester have conducted machine safety assessments at a factory in Aurora, while others have done noise monitoring at a foundry in Blue Island and a factory in Bolingbrook. Students in my general education course, TECH 245: Pollution Prevention and Sustainable Production (spring 23), deconstruct a packaged phone charging cable and evaluate the environmental impacts of the metal, plastic and paper needed to make the charger. They learn how the materials are produced and the environmental impacts of the charger cable throughout its product lifecycle, as well as ways to reduce these impacts.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
Students learn key skills such as teamwork, communication and critical thinking, along with career-specific transferable job skills. I also want them to learn about environmental health and safety (EHS) career fields. NIU EHS graduates are highly recruited by manufacturing, construction, insurance, research laboratories and many other industries. NIU EHS graduates hold regional, national and international leadership positions. It's fun and challenging work with opportunities for career advancement. Though most parents haven't heard of it, students can reassure them that our graduates routinely earn more than engineers.
What is your favorite campus event?
Graduations. I have attended almost every one, both fall and spring. It's a joy to see the students succeed.
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
Eating lunch at the cafeteria that used to be in the Holmes Student Center and talking with colleagues, students and the cafeteria staff.
Who has influenced your professional path?
A chemistry professor suggested I drop out of an intro chem class because I didn't have the knowledge to succeed. He was probably right, as I did graduate from a high school for dropouts. But I wasn't going to let him define me. So instead, I changed my major to chemistry. My particular area of expertise is health effects and control of workplace chemical exposures. That experience drives me to help students succeed and thrive.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and dropped out of college after my freshman year. One of my jobs was as at an iron foundry where I was exposed to noise, chemicals, heat and other safety and health hazards. It made me curious about the hazards I had faced and made me want to learn more about them. After receiving my Ph.D., I worked for a number of years in an EHS leadership position at ComEd and then started and ran a consulting firm. I also taught courses part time at IIT, UIC SPH and Benedictine University. My ultimate goal was to teach college later in life, just like my grandfather who taught at University of Missouri after a long professional career. All those experiences have provided me with a strong base of practical and academic skills when teaching at NIU.
Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I have been on both a local- and national-level board for industrial hygiene professionals, and from 2012-2022 I was on an international committee that developed workplace exposure guidelines that are used worldwide.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
Play guitar, walk the dog, bike and paddle during the warmer months, and cross-country ski the few days per year when there is enough snow. I really like hanging out with my wife, even if it's just watching TV together.