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Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

Crystal Agha, MPH

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I am an Industrial Hygienist & Occupational Safety Specialist for BAE Systems, Inc., a leading defense, security, and aerospace company. The business works to supply products/services for various branches of the armed forces in addition to electronics, security, information technology, and other support services. I am currently based in the York, Pennsylvania manufacturing facility, which specializes in combat vehicles. I’ve received my Associate Safety Professional certification and I am a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Society of Safety Professionals.

What led you to public health and to occupational & environmental health in particular?

During my undergraduate career, I was interested in general public health and environmental health. I wanted to continue that education in a master’s program and learn more about environmental and occupational health in various sectors/industries. I am passionate about environmental health and wanted to see how to best translate the impacts of the environment to ensure public health & safety. The admissions team actually reached out and informed me about the industrial hygiene concentration. As I researched the program, I realized it was worth exploring. The more I learned about worker health and the mechanics behind ensuring occupational health for different types of employees, I became more interested in industrial hygiene and occupational health.

Tell us about your work. What is an average day like for you?

I support our bargaining unit employees in listening to their concerns or ideas, addressing needs, and solving problems to ensure the workplace is safe. I also manage a lot of the industrial hygiene efforts, which include planning/conducting industrial hygiene sampling, report writing, proactive efforts, and especially problem solving! Identifying the needs of our employees and working with cross functional teams (engineers, management, finance, programs, leadership, etc.) sums up what I do, but my duties also include internal auditing, safety culture assessments, building rapport with key stakeholders and IH program planning.     

How did your education as a SWCOEH ERC trainee at UTHealth School of Public Health prepare you for your current career?

I was intrigued by the professors and staff at SWCOEH and their dedication to ensure the best educational experience for students. I also liked the educational track for the industrial hygiene concentration as I was able to delve into different parts of occupational health, public health, and environmental health. I appreciated that the curriculum for the program and the industrial hygiene concentration in particular, had hands-on lab courses and management courses. This prepared me for my internship, which prepared me for my current position. I learned about management principles, safety, sampling and analysis, industrial hygiene, and more – all of which are vital to my current role.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a SWCOEH ERC traineeship leading to a career in public health?

My biggest piece of advice is to build relationships with the SWCOEH staff/professors, your cohort, and the alumni network. They have been such a great asset with mentorship, finding opportunities, and growing your network so you can impact the cohorts that will come after you. Continue building working relationships, pursue certifications, join different professional groups, and never stop learning!