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Student realizes dream, just not the one she expected

August 6, 2010

Growing up in the small town of Elsberry, Mo., Angie Dartt had dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Interested in all the animal "ologies," she completed a four-year degree in biology with an environmental studies certificate. But, while she was in school, life kept throwing her other possibilities.

Early job experiences led to ultimate career path

Angie Dartt recently graduated with a Ph.D. in ergonomics from the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.

“By happenstance, I had an internship in health physics, and radiation health and safety,” said Dartt. “After my summer internship, I worked at the University of Missouri Research Reactor and learned more about health physics.”

But Dartt wasn’t ready to leave her dream behind and she turned her focus back to animals. She worked with her biology professor studying river and forest health, including using insect studies to determine the health of ecosystems.

In her senior year, Dartt worked for the United States Geological Survey and a small switch started to turn on as she came to realize she was working around chemicals and in extreme-use environments (a jump into a freezing stream to fix a USGS motor boat).

Inspired to focus on ergonomics

When the time came to select a graduate program, Dartt visited the CSU website and was looking at health physics when something else drew her attention – industrial hygiene. Intrigued by her own work experiences, she arrived at CSU in 2003 ready to begin her graduate studies.

“I didn’t know much about ergonomics until John Rosecrance came to lecture in one of my classes, and then everything just came together,” said Dartt. “The practical application of research to help people improve the quality and safety of their workplace really appealed to me and I decided to focus on ergonomics. I love the ability to make a direct difference in the lives of people who benefit from improved workplace health and safety.”

Under Rosecrance, Dartt immediately became involved with several studies including one that evaluated exposures to awkward postures in appliance manufacturing. At that same time, she was involved in a study evaluating hand-tool use and how different designs (including handles that would accommodate smaller hands) impact user health and safety. The posture study was finished in 2008, though out of that study a second project was launched on awkward-posture exposures at the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo. Dartt recently completed her Ph.D. dissertation that focused on exposure to awkward postures and the effects on worker health and safety.

Ergonomics Ph.D. awarded in May

While at CSU, Dartt also worked at the Eastman Kodak Co. in Windsor, in industrial hygiene and ergonomics. She was named the Health, Safety and Environment Manager in 2008 and left Kodak in February after five years with the company. Dartt graduated in May and has been hired by Golder Associates in the fields of industrial hygiene, health and safety, and ergonomics. Her husband, Joseph, who came with her to CSU to study geology, switched majors to receive his degree in industrial hygiene and now works for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“It will be hard to leave CSU and all the great people here, but we hope to stay connected,” said Dartt, who is the first member in her family to receive a Ph.D. “I look forward to having more time to focus on national and local industrial hygiene organizations and would like to get involved in international efforts to promote worker health and safety, and to help establish training programs in other parts of the world.”

Originally published in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences Emitter newsletter, Summer, 2010.