College of Public Health and Human Sciences Assistant Professor Laurel Kincl came to Oregon State in 2011. Prior to the CPHHS, she served as a research fellow in the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, Spain, a research associate at the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon in Eugene and a research associate in the Biomechanics & Ergonomics Research Laboratories in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. She earned a master’s degree in Industrial Hygiene and a PhD in Occupational Safety and Ergonomics from the University of Cincinnati.
What made you decide to get into this field of study? Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path?
“I am not sure I can narrow it down to one moment. While studying engineering as an undergraduate, I took a course in ergonomics where I first learned of occupational health and safety. I was drawn toward thinking about how workplaces and work life impacts the health and safety of people. Also, as part of my undergraduate degree, I worked in a NIH research lab. That led me to consider graduate school and research, but not until after serving in Peace Corps. I spent two years in the Gambia, West Africa teaching before going to graduate school.”
What does your current research entail?
“I currently have several projects focused on understanding environmental and workplace exposures in order to prevent illness and injury. My occupational studies are focused on commercial fishermen and masonry construction workers and injury prevention. My environmental studies are with OSU’s Environmental Health Sciences Center and are helping to advance the development of exposure assessment technologies by engaging communities with environmental health concerns.”
What sparked your interest in this research?
“All of my projects are collaborative either with fellow investigators or Extension. I am very lucky to work with amazing people who inspire me. Overall, I am drawn to more complex situations such as those that are found with commercial fishing and construction industries.”
“The goal is to prevent illness and injury in the populations I work with and to create safe and healthy workplaces and environments.”
How will this make a difference?
“The goal is to prevent illness and injury in the populations I work with and to create safe and healthy workplaces and environments. My hope is that by engaging the populations in the process of understanding the hazards and developing prevention strategies, we are successful.”
What would you say is the most fascinating aspect of this research?
“Learning about and seeing firsthand what people are engaged in for work and why they love their work.”
Are you working with anyone else in the CPHHS?
“I collaborate with Associate Professor Viktor Bovbjerg on commercial fishing projects. He lends his expertise in epidemiology to occupational safety. I also work with others in the college developing research ideas, including one with Assistant Professor John Geldhof, where we’re combining his expertise in positive youth development and my interest in young worker health and safety.”
Why is research important in the field of Public Health/Environmental and Occupational Health?
“Workplaces and environments are changing. Also, technologies progress fast, so there are new ways of studying health and safety and new ways of preventing disease and injury.”
What’s next for you? Do you have any future research projects lined up?
“Proposals are out building on my current projects, so let’s see what sticks.”
What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it?
“My second grade teacher said to me on the playground, ‘Learn from what others do – including their mistakes – and don’t just follow them.’”
What advice would you give to current students and recent alums?
“Be an open listener and a doer. You will learn outside formal education, so stay open. You’ll learn most from doing.”
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
“Anything active and outdoors, especially running with friends and hiking with my dog. On the domestic side, I love to eat and cook fresh foods and knit.”