Hannah Echt

Hannah Echt

Student profile photo of Hannah Echt

MS, Occupational Hygiene (OH)

I first became interested in the field of occupational hygiene through my work at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The stories I heard there taught me about the high costs and sometimes fatal consequences of occupational injuries and illnesses, and ultimately led me to enroll in the MS in Occupational Hygiene degree program here at UW.

During the application process, I found that the people here really made an effort to get to know me as a person and make sure that the program was a good fit for me. I didn't find this personal touch at the other programs and schools I applied to, and that played a huge role in my decision to come to UW.

Since starting my studies here, I've been given tremendous opportunities. Through my research I've learned key skills in industrial hygiene data collection and analysis. Additionally, the funding I've received from the NIOSH-funded Education and Research Center (ERC) has enabled me to build professional connections by allowing me to travel to professional conferences. This funding also played a major role in my decision to attend UW.

My thesis research is focused on a chemical called diacetyl, a compound that is naturally produced during the roasting of coffee beans. It was also used as an artificial flavoring agent in microwave popcorn to give it a buttery flavor and is associated with a rare and debilitating lung disease commonly called "popcorn lung." Recent studies have shown that workers in large coffee production facilities are exposed to levels of diacetyl that are considered hazardous. Currently, little is known about workers’ exposures in small-scale roasters and cafes. My research seeks to fill this gap by characterizing diacetyl emissions and exposures at a small-scale wholesale coffee roaster and its associated retail cafe.

After graduation, I plan to pursue a career as an industrial hygienist in local, state, or the federal government. In 40 years, I hope to be able to look back on a career of improving the health and safety of workers and know that I made a positive impact.