In the News: Penn State Student’s CDC Internship

This past summer, Penn State environmental resource management student Aaron Blakney spent his summer interning for a CDC campus in Atlanta, Georgia. Aaron was 1 of 10 people chosen to intern with them from the 300 applicants. He spent his time there working in the policy development office, focusing on the economic analysis of Superfund sites; which is an area that the EPA confirms to be contaminated by hazardous-material. Blakney and his co-workers traveled to different communities that have been labeled as Superfund sites to analyze and assess the effects these harsh chemicals have on human health. Summer temperatures in Atlanta can reach extreme levels of heat, and the inside of a HAZMAT suit can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This meant that Blakney and his fellow interns were only allowed to spend15 minutes’ maximum in the suits while collecting data. For the Penn State student, he said that even though everyone comes out of the suit drenched in sweat, that it is one of the most interesting things they did during their internship. During his time there, Blakney was trying to focus on gathering information from these sites, and trying to “get some economic indicators to see what type of impact the contaminants were having.” Other things he experienced during his internship was listening to guest speakers, and visiting different locations associated with the CDC’s work. Some locations he went to were wastewater treatments, stormwater centers, air quality centers, and the zoo. The trips the interns took were constructed to give them further insight into how humans are affecting our environment and the consequential human health changes that occur as a result of these effects. They also engaged in a mock mercury spill to examine the way the CDC gets rid of unsafe materials. For Blakney, this internship was a huge step and a huge challenge for him adjusting to the workforce from being a student. He said, “In the real world it’s a constant stream of assignments.” He claimed that working for the CDC changed his mindset about how to complete his work and that it’s all about figuring out how to solve problems on your own. This internship impacted and developed Blakney’s future plans. He now wants to work with environmental and public health, as opposed to his previous dreams of focusing on environmental policy. He enjoyed working with others and claims he gets his energy from being surrounded by people. He enjoyed his internship so much that he claimed he would love to work with the CDC in the future.


CDC interns in HAZMAT suits



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