Research scientist/laboratory supervisor, Kissel Laboratory
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington
Master of Science (MS)
After completing his master’s degree in Environmental Health in 1995, Jeff Shirai went to work at a local public health consulting firm. He spent two years in the private sector, and then returned to the department, where he has been a research scientist and laboratory supervisor in Professor John Kissel’s laboratory.
"One of the primary reasons I chose this field, and in particular this job, is that it is very satisfying to know that each day I get to work on research projects that provide a societal and public health benefit that goes far beyond my own personal rewards."
Shirai is currently working on an in vivo (human volunteers) dermal adherence study focusing on a variety of geologic media, as well as computer modeling projects simulating exposures to pesticides and volatile organic compounds.
Over the years, the Kissel Lab has conducted studies dealing with human exposure to contaminants in the environment, dermal exposure to contaminated soils or sediments, and pesticide exposures in residential and occupational settings. While a number of projects have entailed field sampling and lab work, others have involved in-depth quantitative analysis and computer modeling.
As the research scientist/laboratory supervisor in the Kissel Lab, Shirai interacts with students on a daily basis. "My favorite part of what I do is working with and training students who will be the next generation of environmental health scientists and practitioners. The fact that I have developed very close friendships with many of them is icing on the cake."
Shirai hopes his passion for environmental health, his perseverance, and his perfectionism rub off on the students. "Set the bar high, challenge yourself, work hard, and don’t settle for mediocre work," he tells them. "You will not regret this later on."
He has been working in the department for over 10 years now, but feels that he continues to learn and add to his skill set. He firmly believes that this continued career development helps prepare him to tackle challenges that come his way.
Shirai encourages students to take interesting classes and work on a challenging thesis project, but also to find a lab with a tight-knit network of students, staff, and faculty. He believes that working in such an environment enriches the graduate school experience.