Environmental lab scientist enjoys solving problems

Federal Way woman talks about her STEM career and message to girls in honor of International Women’s Day.

Monica Herbert is an environmental lab scientist III for the city of Tacoma Environmental Laboratory, Environmental Services Department. The Mirror asked her the following questions about her job and her message to young girls who hope to be in this field one day:

Q: What is a typical day at your job like?

A: As an environmental laboratory scientist, I run laboratory tests to identify and quantify contaminants that affect the environment and the health of humans and wildlife. Here at the city of Tacoma laboratory, we prepare and test and reports of samples for soils, water, industrial wastewater, and stormwater to determine pollutant levels or identify sources of contamination. The results are used to develop cleanup procedures, make policy recommendations, or monitor past cleanups.

Q: How long have you worked in this field?

A: 11 years

Q: How did you get into this type of work?

A: I studied environmental engineer in Colombia after I moved to the U.S. I enrolled in ESL classes at Highline College for two years, then I took some environmental science courses at Clover Park Technical College. My first job was as a laboratory extractions person for an environmental laboratory in Tukwila, prepping the samples, then I moved up as an analyst doing the test and reports. Now I am the supervisor for the organics department of the laboratory.

Q: Why do you enjoy your job?

A: I enjoy being an environmental scientist because we are always solving problems and knowing that the job we do at the laboratory provides results that are used to make decisions needed to help improve the environment we live in.

Q: What is your message to young girls who hope to be in this field one day?

A: The women are part of the STEM jobs for decades, but many are well aware that it is still a male world. Believe in yourself, you have the same capacity as everybody else. Never let anybody tell you that you can’t do this. I am a woman, an immigrant from a minority background and with hard work and believing in myself, I have got where for many people, it seems impossible to get. Science is a fun and challenging job go for it.

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