In Episode 52 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Dr. Mahmood Nikbakhtzadeh, Professor and Program Coordinator for Environmental Health Science! Why is Environmental Health Science a great major choice for you? What career opportunities are there? Find out in this episode!
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Welcome to the CSUSB advising Podcast. Today we're going to learn more about the Environmental Health Science bachelor's degree. And to learn more about this major, we welcome our special guest, Dr. Nik. Dr. Nik, how are you?
Very good. Very good. Thank you, Matt. Thank you for having me today. Yeah, it's awesome for you to be here. And let's dive right in. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in higher ed and CSUSB?
Of course, of course. My full name is Mahmood Nikbakht Zadeh, but I often go by Dr. Nik. I joined Cal State San Bernardino three years ago, and an assistant professor of Environmental Health Science in Department of Health Science and Human Ecology College of Natural Sciences. Before joining here, I was an adjunct professor at San Diego State University. I was teaching pretty much the same type of classes that I have right now. And I've been teaching in other Institute's do and mostly in San Diego area. My background is in biological science long ago, before I graduated. Then I have my master's in Medical Entomology and vector control a PhD in Medical Entomology, a second PhD in chemical ecology and then I did I did my second PhD in Germany. And then I started my postdoc at Ohio State University. A couple of years of postdoc, then I was working for a state of Vermont, as opposed to biologist joined UC Davis. Scientists working there for a while too. And, you know, San Diego State San Diego area, actually Cal State San Bernardino.
Wonderful. So with the major that we're talking about today, can you tell us more about the Environmental Health Science major?
Environmental Health Science? It's a great field, a great major and an exciting one. As the name says, it has two parts and vitamins and how often do people make mistake for environmental science. Environmental Science and Environmental Health have something in common, but they're not the same majors? Two completely different matrix. Environmental science speaks about the effect or the influence, or let's say the impact of human being on the environment, what we do to environment, what happened to the environment, what do we do to the soil, to the forest, to oceans, to rivers, vegetations, I don't know animals, everything, living ones and nonliving ones, how we make these are the topics of environmental science, and environmental health is different means okay, if we, because of our activity, we do a lot of things to the environment, then what will present the impact of dosing on human body and our health and well being? So the central part of environmental health is human. That's why it has the health part right, which is we want to say Hey, okay, if for example, you make pollution by burning fossil fuels, vehicles industry and all those things. What will be eventually the effect of all those things on on our body? If I don't know you release a sewage into the rivers and many joints, the ocean, how it impacts our well being life. If we come in touch with, I don't know, radiation, for example, like being for such a long time under severe sunlight, or go to solarium, for example, knowing those things, what are potential effects of those things in our body, and a lot more different diseases and many different issues that we can get from the environment. So again, as like mental health is about what are the impacts of all the changes that naturally when human made happen to the environment on our body? So how our bodies going to show reactions? What are the symptoms, what type of issues what kind of illnesses we might get from all those changes or manipulations.
Yeah, thank you for giving the distinction with that. And so majors also offer like a minor or certificate. With Environmental Health Sciences that offered as well or is that just for the bachelor's degree?
We have to offer a bachelor's degree in Environmental Health Science. Also, you can have a bachelor's degree in Public Health with a concentration in Environmental Health. That's possible to more you can be in environmental health science major and you choose a minor a minor in bio achieve the minority chemistry, and minor in physics or geology, or anything else. All those ways are possible. Environmental Health Science is a very flexible field that allows students to go any directions they want. It's not a dead end route that students ___ and then, you know, somehow they are in deadlock. It's an open field now, that if at any time the students want to move to go to any other bill, they fully active, fully capable.
Yeah, I like when when the major has that flexibility. And it's also something that can pair well with like, other other areas. And generally speaking within environmental health science for the major, what are students learning in their classes?
Environmental Health Science is as widespread as the environment itself. So when we talk about environmental health science, principally, we talk about air pollution, air control, water, water resources, water treatments, radiation, noise, pollution, light pollution, vector borne diseases, you know, all the mosquitoes, ticks, all the ins and outs that you see around, they can transfer a lot of different diseases to humans ___diseases, what are the symptoms? What happened to us? How we can control them? How we find them? Right? All those things. Or, let's say solid waste. We produce everyday a lot of crashes, right? We don't care about what happens because we put that canister at the curbside, somebody comes to pick it up. But this story begins exactly from that point. Where does it go? What do people do with it? Right? There are some regulations codes, it has a journey. And it's an interesting journey to see what type of trash we produce, how they are separated based on the type of the trash, where do they go, how we treat them safely, not to affect our body again, our wellness. Or, we talked about hazardous material or hazardous waste. When we go to the hospital, for example, clinics that produce a lot of things like sharps, for example, like needles, or a lot of medicines for different types of chemical compounds, like in laboratories or industry or clinics, hospitals, update will be treated in a different way. So what do we do with them, when we have to keep them when we want to dispose the rest? It has a journey to where does he go would happen to them? These are very, very interesting things. And it's important again, on our well being and our health. If they're not taking care of well, something can happen to us, or toxic materials, right? Everyday in the modern life, we're dealing with a lot of toxic compounds, some of them we know, ome of what we don't know? Even at home, right? When we keep veterinarians cleaners, different types of disinfectants, old gills tampons, because they can have some effects on our skin, or our eyes, on our lawns, and everything else, the eyes and those things. So what are the effects of those things in our body, and how we can do what we can do to protect ourselves? And if we don't need them anymore, then what can happen to them, how we dispose them safely, and so forth. Also, we talk about a couple of other things like for example, let's say land use, you have a piece of land, who says that what type of land it is how you can use it, you can come strike and ___ then the court sale, how many stories this building can have, right? Or you have a school, you have a hospital and you have a university campus, a college that can ___ border, you know, what should be dead buildings look like if you want to get it? Right? How many people can be there? What should be the edge whack, right? And all those things. So this is an really exciting, exciting field, or you go to the beach, we want to walk along the beach, or you want to swim to ask some people who go there and check the ___ before you even know we see them, right? They even take samples from the water of the ocean to see if this is safe for you to swim. So there are a lot of things going on in Environmental Health is a very, very widespread things as widespread as the environment as I said, itself.
Of course, we get a lot of questions too, about how what kind of careers that might connect with the major. So with your time at CSUSB Can you talk about where are you seeing some of your students go career wise after graduation?
This is actually, Matt, this is one of the most interesting questions that you could ask me and an exciting one. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't know about the Environmental Health Science. What if somebody has heard something probably, again, making a mistake with environmental science? Environmental Health Science is one of the exceptions in the whole campus, and not just our campus, the whole nation. It has a lot of jobs, and it has more jobs than the number of graduates. So one of the reasons because not that many schools around the country offer Environmental Health Program, totally in the whole United States, we have 33 environmental health programs. Accredited Environmental Health Program. And when I say active adjustments, they are approved by external agencies for the quality for their standards, and for whatever this major and program and teaching and quality labs of the country. So, compare it with a lot of other fields that hundreds of 1000s or 10s of 1000s schools around the country offer that, right? So not that many graduates. And because not that many graduates, there are a lot of jobs, we have more actually vacancies that people can graduate and seal them up. So at the end, they get their students from other majors. That's why we often encourage the students, hey, please come and take a look at at least make yourself familiar with this major, because we have a lot of opportunity. If you're looking for a job, a permanent job, a full time job, this is where you want to go, right? If you don't want to wait and do other things, or have already paid after graduation and don't know what to do for months or years until you get a dropm, come to Environmental Health Science. It gives you the job almost right away. The exciting part of that event is that our students can get a full time job even before they graduate when your senior students. And where they can work almost everywhere. They can work for the city, different cities, they can work with counties, almost all counties anywhere in any state in the United States. And they can work for state government, many different Department of State Department, Department of Public Health Department of Pesticide Regulation, Department of Toxic Substance Control, Department of Water Resources and Water Conservation, Wild Fish and Wildlife, recreation and a lot of other departments of this state day hire our graduates. Also federal governments. Classy jobs with the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, FDA Food and Drug Administration. These are classy agencies that anybody wants to get the drop in it, working with the best scientists in the country, right? And they have offices and labs everywhere in the country, including a California, so it's easy to get a job with the military of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, they hire environmental health specialists almost every single year. So if you ask me, private agencies, insurance companies, hospitals, big __ are out I don't know are good signs, ones, all those things they hire too, right? And a lot of other places, there is hardly a place that they do not hire environmental health specialists. When the people graduate from our program, they will call EHS on environmental health specialists. These people could be hired at any place, there will be an exam by the State Department of Public Health called REHS exam, registered environmental health specialist exam. And if somebody is interested, it's not obligated, but if somebody wants, they can take the exam. And if they pass it, it opens more doors under. It is a prestigious certificate that they can get. And by having that certificate in addition to the degree that they earn from the university, they can ask for or applied for a lot more jobs throughout the country. Fortunately, our program, our major environmental health at Cal State San Bernardino, they need amongst a very limited number of programs in the whole nation that is accurate that is actually audited by the State of California Department of Public Health and by the National Agency, or what we call it NEHA National Environmental Health Accreditation Council . And because of that, even if our graduates once and future lives in the state you want to live anywhere else or find a job anywhere else in the country, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio. They have no issue in getting a job, right? It's so easy for them, they don't do anything. Our degree is acceptable anywhere in the country. That's a plus. But, there are only two programs like this in the whole state of California. And as I said, only 33 in our whole nation. So we're among a small club of universities that our program is activated, and they are simply fantastic for our students when they graduate.
That's exciting to hear. And let's say someone's listening to this, and they're like, Wow, I'm super interested now in this major, but maybe they're on the fence of maybe declaring this as their major. Do you have any advice or suggestions for that student?
If somebody is, you know, that not know a lot about it, can go first of all to our website, there are some information, you know, website about what to ask us, for example, they have to take, or my information is there too, as the program coordinator of Environmental Health Science. So, they can directly contact me send an email, to me. Just a simple as type CSUSB, Cal State San Bernardino, and then Environmental Health Science, it takes it to to the page. That's it, and they will see me, my picture is there for faculty are listed. There you see my my name and my email. They can send an email to me, and I will be more than happy to answer if they like, they can visit our department, they can visit our labs even and see what we're doing. We have several massive research labs. And students are working there with exciting projects, they can come and see what they're doing even talk to the students. Even I will be happy to set a time like virtual meetings or to Zoom or personal meeting on campus, if somebody wants to stalk me get more information. We already published a lot of brochures, education brochures about what environmental health, what are the subfields of environmental health, what kind of drops, graduates can get, and all those things job market salary, all those things. They are all available to if they asked, we can send them a copy of those brochures, or they can simply come to that department and seek some some copies for themselves. So we are accessible and it's not difficult to find out. We actually welcome all the people, all those potential students and people who are curious about Environmental Health Science and want to get more information about it. We encourage them to come and talk to us.
All right. Sounds good. And do you find that there might be any misconceptions that others might have? Or might think of when they when they hear Environmental Health Science?
Yeah, usually, I don't know, correct or not. When some people talk about Environmental Health Science, they think it's a difficult field. And it's very difficult or very complicated of which I believe it's not, it's not difficult. It's not more difficult than Biology. It's not more difficult than Chemistry. It's more difficult than Physics or Math or Geology, for example, all the basic science fields, right? Because we are within the environmental of within the natural science, College of Natural Science. So an environmental health sciences, the sciences, if somebody wants to ask me what type of major it is, what type of subject it is, it is science major. So we're dealing with chemistry, biology, a little bit physics and math. So, but if they're not more difficult than any of the other majors. Probably even easier than those. And we are applications of those fields in reality outside. So you will learn a little bit math or physics or chemistry, biology is a basic science, very important. We can't do anything without them. But we our measure is a measure that uses them in reality outside. So use them out since the physics use the chemistry outside. So would you learn using an app like way when you get a job, right? And if that makes it to me even more interesting because you just learned something which is only in the lab or in some models for on the paper or it could the computer. But in reality when you get out you will use your knowledge and you will enjoy the Hey, he thinks that I had in a class and are professionals Talking, buddy. See, that's how you forget I need it, you know, and that makes it very interesting. So a lot of people might they think that it's might be hard, but I tell them, it's not. If you're looking for a scientific fill, which is exciting enough, very diverse, talking about different things, not just one focus, one focus one focus would be boring, different things a little bit from everything, right. And at the end, you graduate and easily get a drop, come to Environmental Health Science. And the other things that might be useful to tell to audiences is often when the people want to go to medical school, dental school or pharmacy school, usually like to go to biology or chemistry or something like that. I want to tell the good news that if you come to Environmental Health Science, you can use it as a pre med finds to be used as a pre med or pre pharmacy, or dental or whatever else. So again, remember what I said while ago, this is not a deadend field. If you come to Environmental Health Science, every door and every option that they open to do not close any option on yourself, that you open more doors on yourself, actually. So let's say you graduate, you're looking for a job or you want to work for a while, then decide what to do, right? There are a lot of traps, you can have some time permanent jobs. And if you turn your mind wants to go to graduate school, you can easily go to graduate school for Environmental Health Science, or you can go to masters of chemistry, masters of biology, masters, in other fields, you want to go to medical school, you have to prereqs that you're ready to go, right?
No, that's really good useful information to know, because we do have a lot of students that are interested in going into med school, pharmacy, and so at least yeah, now we now as advisors, we have more information here to be able to give students like, hey, there's also another option and doing the Environmental Health Science major.
Actually, we have some students that already are in pharmacy school. I have several students of myself that they're graduating right now at the UC Riverside. They're doing a masters like in biological science, or biochemistry or all those molecular biology. So every door is over.
And so for students in in your major, are there any resources available to them from your department?
Yeah, as I said, we've published a series of brochures on every aspects of Environmental Health Science. We tried to explain to too briefly and clearly in a very interesting format. So there are a series of those brochures. I don't know exactly the number but I guess maybe like eight to 10 of those brochures, they're available. If at any time any students is interested, just to stop by the office of our department or directly can contract me, they can come and pick it up. Or they can even send it to institutions, or if they're a group of the people are interested. They can pass them and send it to them as we've done already, for some schools with these things like it's some teachers or I don't know other people are interested in telling to their own students about our major Environmental Health Science, we will be more than happy to pack out brochures and send it to them.
And then if someone has more questions, is it best do you recommend they start with the website or to contact you directly?
I mean, you know, website provide some basic information, but not everything is in a website. If they have any questions beyond what is on the website, they can directly reach out to me, or they can send an email to the department. If the department can answer them pay. If not, they send it to me and I will be happy to respond. So we're always accessible. It's not difficult to find us and Cal State San Bernardino campus, we are located in Physical Science building. The department office is in the second floor, and my office is in the third floor. And again, the easiest probably way to access me is via email and my email as on the website as well. So if you forget my name because it's a little bit long, just remember and by Environmental Health Science, Cal State San Bernardino, please type those things on Google and you will see you will see the name of faculty and my name will be there too and my email. A lot of people when they are looking for a job, some people may like aftershocks some people may like laptops or they they they like type of job that getting out and doing something out why, again, environmental health science jobs aren't exciting, because usually when you get them, you have a mixture of both. You have a little bit of office work, and you have a little bit of fieldwork. And it's not like any other jobs. It's very exceptional. Again, I've seen many different drops. I've worked with different agencies, we've collaborated with them. So I have a good understanding of how it will be if you've graduated and started working in different software, different majors. When you start working as an environmental health specialist, or as I said, DHS, for example, after graduating from our school, you can regulate yourself, do you want to stay in the office now? Are you going to get out? If you want to get out? Would you want to go? Do one for example, if you work for let's say, San Bernardino County, do you want to go to Arrowhead or you want to go to Ontario? Do you prefer to go to I don't know ___ or you prefer to go to Redlands? You decide where you want to go? How long do you want to spend outside, right? What, for example, facility do you want to visit or check or inspect or educate or regulate or enforce regulation today, or maybe it's cold and chilly, and you don't want to get out you prefer to stay in office, you can, you know, these types of flexibility are rare and drop opportunities. Either the people are in an office, they have to work in an office or their job is outside they have to get out. You don't have to do the extra management and freedom and flexibility to choose what you want to do. So Environmental Health Science, again is specific or a lot of people have just like 30 minutes or 40 minutes lunchtime, and Environmental Health Science when you get out to inspect. You decide where you want to go for lunch. How much time you want to spend for your lunch, half an hour, 45 minutes, an hour, for example. And this flexibility exists really, it even exists. And this freedom and flexibility is something that a lot of people love it. But they don't know that where to find that. And I hope my message reaches to more people that if you're looking again for permanent jobs, full time jobs, quick jobs, who pay even with full benefits, holidays and vacation, sick leave, retirement 401k everything. Then Environmental Health jobs provide all the tools including flexibility and a lot of freedom.
His perfect way to end the recording. Thank you so much again, Dr. Nik.
Of course. Many thanks man for having me today. Again, it was a pleasure to be with you today.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai