My “Meet the Scientist” series brings you conversations with NCEH/ATSDR scientists that aim to give you a sense of the talented people who are working to keep you safe and secure from those things in the environment that threaten our nation’s health. Graduate student, homeless shelter volunteer, hand-washing expert, and rock-climber-in-training, meet Jona Ogden, one of ATSDR’s newest Health Scientists.
Jona was born in Newport News, Virginia, but her family moved to Augusta, Georgia where she lived for most of her life. She graduated from the University of Georgia. Although her initial plan was to become a pharmacist, Jona found she wanted more interaction with people, so she changed her major to Environmental Health Sciences. She was initially so scared by her toxicology class that she emailed her professor to ask if she should drop the course, but ultimately she finished among the top five in her class! Far from being scared, Jona found she loved toxicology; so she visited a CDC job fair looking for a toxicology-related internship. Soon after, she was offered an ORISE fellowship in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences where she was encouraged to pursue a graduate degree in environmental public health.
While working on her Master’s in Environmental Public Health, Jona is also enrolled in CDC’s Student Career Experience Program (SCEP). This program offers students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience directly related to their academic field of study. Jona graduated with the Masters degree in Public Health in mid-May 2012 and is looking forward to her job as a Health Scientist in ATSDR.
In ATSDR, scientists work on teams that include staff from multiple disciplines with different levels of education and experience. Jona participates on several teams supervised by senior toxicologists. She has also contributed to ATSDR projects involving toxicological profiles (“ToxProfiles™”). These pivotal reference documents for the international toxicology community contain specific information about contaminants found at hazardous waste sites. She is contributing to a toxicological profile for Hexachlorobenzene. “We’ll be able to implement new research and produce a comprehensive document with the best, most current information available on chemicals to researchers, scientists, and the public.” said Jona.
She has also contributed to ATSDR projects involving
- A ToxProfile™ for toxaphene
- ToxProfile™ addenda to ToxProfiles™ for many chemicals
- Using quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) tools to address data gaps
What is QSAR?
“We have come so far with technology that we actually have computer programs that can help us determine a chemical’s toxicity just by knowing its structure. Part of my work is determining how well that process, called Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationships (QSARs), works and if it can be used to supply toxicity data when animal or human data is not available for a chemical,” said Jona.
Why Jona’s Work is Rewarding
I asked Jona what she found most rewarding about her work. “I love to discover new information and fill in gaps where we had no information before. I’m also happy to work within an agency where its values are aligned with mine.”
“Tell me about your some of your personal interests.” I asked Jona. “I volunteer at a homeless shelter because I enjoy working with kids and parents to help change their lives. Besides that, I spend time conducting hand-washing demonstrations in schools for the CDC Speaker’s Bureau, and I’m also a tour guide at CDC’s David J. Sencer Museum,” said Jona. Jona is also an actress, dancer, and rock-climber in training. Photos shown below: