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Jessica Kastanek|Chemistry Alumni

I’m Jessy Kastanek and I am a Chemist and Human Health Risk Assessor working with CH2M Hill’s Environmental Services Business Group in Denver, CO. I am very fortunate to have found a position with a FORTUNE 500 company that has been named as one of FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For five times. Discussions around our water cooler include mention of our projects such as the Panama Canal Expansion Program, infrastructure and facilities for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the relocation of U.S. military forces in South Korea, and major sewerage upgrades in London and Abu Dhabi.

One of my favorite things about my job is that it is different each day and every new task is a challenge. My other favorite is the scheduling flexibility afforded to the employees, an essential for a busy mom of three little ones. In my role as a chemist on our environmental remediation projects, I interact with the analytical laboratories; authoring project quality controlling documentation, planning field sampling activities, and validating reported data to ensure legally defensible data is utilized in our assessments. I have worked on some of the largest remediation projects in the world including the Rocky Flats and Hanford Radiological Site clean-up efforts. I have also had the awesome opportunity to travel to Canada’s ‘Oil Sands’ Region supporting our ‘Operations and Maintenance’ group in their daily operation of the water treatment plants at several Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAG-D) sites. My team and I designed on-site laboratories, set-up the equipment and instruments, authored SOPs and trained local operations staff in basic laboratory skills and simple analyses.

I have also found a niche and an on-going education working as a human health risk assessor on multiple, fascinating projects. I have studied the toxicology of literally thousands of environmental contaminants and, using this information as well as data regarding potential exposure scenarios, calculated clean-up goals that will protect human health and the environment. Exposure scenarios include; urban families eating fruits and vegetables grown in PCB-contaminated soils; a construction worker that encounters benzene-contaminated groundwater while digging a trench; and office workers breathing carcinogenic compounds from the air in their workplace due to the volatilization and migration of these compounds from the contaminated groundwater below the building’s foundation. Each project is a new challenge and I am continuously excited about the sciences I study every day. I am lucky enough to be able to honestly say, “I love my job!”

Jessica

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It was the dynamic and outstanding faculty of the University of Wyoming Chemistry Department that prepared me for a career working for one of the most world-renowned engineering companies. The faculty that I studied with had an uncanny ability to bring our small department together, in its entirety, as a family. What was truly amazing about that union was its product. In each other, we found ourselves; our confidence, our brilliance, our grace (and sometimes where it wasn’t), our futures really. We were educated, cared for, but treated as equals and we were prepared to fly. I will always look back on the time I spent in graduate school in Laramie as one of the best times of my whole life.

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