Jo Anne G. Balanay
GS: Where are you from?
JAB: I came directly from St. Paul, Minnesota when my family (husband and 2 kids) and I relocated to Birmingham, AL. Originally, I was born and raised in the Philippines.
GS: What degree will you receive and when?
JAB: In Spring 2007, I joined in the PhD program in Environmental Health Sciences with an emphasis in Industrial Hygiene. I expect to earn my PhD degree by Summer 2012.
GS: How long have you been at UAB?
JAB: I am a full-time employee and a part-time student at UAB. I joined the Department of Environmental Health Sciences as a Research Associate in September 2006, and started my graduate studies in January (Spring) 2007.
GS: What is your research?
JAB: My research is about investigating the absorption characteristics of activated carbon fibers against specific vapors and gases. I believe that this research has a very important application on respiratory protection because the materials being studied have several advantages over the currently used materials in the market for respirators, and thus may be a good alternative. This research is also significant in the development of improved respirators that may provide short-term protection for first responders and emergency personnel in case of catastrophic events, such as chemical accidents and terrorist attacks.
GS: What made you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
JAB: This decision is really easy. It is actually based on 3 facts: 1) I am employed in UAB as a Research Associate, and UAB offers an employee educational assistance; 2) I already earned my Masters degree in Industrial Hygiene in the University of Minnesota in June 2003; and 3) UAB has been going strong in the field of research. A big part of me is into research. I knew that if I would be pursuing my PhD degree and be doing research, UAB is one of the best places to be. I did not want to let go of a great opportunity.
GS: Have you received any awards or honors?
JAB: I presented a student poster about my current research during the 2008 American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce) in Minneapolis, MN on June 2008. I am honored to have received a “Best of Session” Award for the Student Category. Such award made me believe even more that the research I am working on is worth the time and effort.
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
JAB: I was greatly honored when I was invited to be a part of the 1st Summer Institute in Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health as a speaker. This short course was conducted for undergraduate students who may consider the field of occupational and environmental health and safety as their career. I am in the field of industrial hygiene, and a very few knows about this challenging field. Just thinking that even just one of these students will choose industrial hygiene as his or her career path is already rewarding for me.
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
JAB: My greatest influence here at UAB is Dr. Claudiu Lungu. He is my professor, adviser, colleague and friend rolled into one. I have known him as my professor and adviser since I was an international Masters student back in Minnesota in 2001. He encourages me to be analytical, in the sense that I should not just look at the data as they are but come up with something more useful using those data. He unknowingly builds my self-confidence at times I am losing it. And for that, I am very grateful.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
JAB: My motivation in doing my research is making a difference towards the improvement of the health and safety of the working population. This may sound ambitious because I am only working on a “small piece of the pie”. But no matter how small my contribution will be, I know I will make a difference.
GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
JAB: I plan to continue working either in an academic institution to teach and continue doing research, or in an industrial company which is a new setting for me.
Jo Anne’s advice for other graduate students:
Always plan ahead and learn how to prioritize. Things in the course of your study will be a lot smoother if you know what you have to do next and what goes after it.