Young NIOSH Engineer Helps Solve Invisible Problems

Posted on by Trudi McCleery, MPH
This week is National Engineers Week which is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) employs over 200 engineers and engineering technicians who identify, evaluate, develop, and implement engineering control technology to prevent occupational disease and injury. NIOSH engineers cover various disciplines including: biomedical, civil, chemical, computer, electrical, industrial, mechanical, mining, and safety engineering. Engineers are an important part of public health efforts. Many of the solutions developed by NIOSH engineers are adopted by industry, saving the lives and improving the health of American workers. To honor our engineers, the blog will highlight examples of their work throughout the week.

Depending on their job, workers may be exposed to a variety of invisible hazards. For example, emergency medical service (EMS) workers may be exposed to infectious microorganisms shed by patients in ambulances. Pharmacists who prepare hazardous drugs (e.g., those used for cancer therapy, and some antiviral drugs, hormone agents, and bioengineered drugs) may also be exposed to agents in the workplace. Additionally, construction workers may be exposed to hazardous silica dust particles while grinding or polishing concrete. During National Engineers Week, we are proud to highlight Dylan Neu – a young NIOSH Engineer who has always been very curious about invisible things, and wants to serve others with his engineering expertise to help people live better lives. He has since embraced an unconventional federal career of engineering in occupational safety and health.

Dylan is a recent Biomedical Engineering graduate from the University of Cincinnati. Dylan first joined NIOSH’s Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART), Engineering and Physical Hazards Branch (EPHB) in 2013 when he started as an undergraduate student participating in the Pathways Program. EPHB houses approximately 20 engineers from varying engineering disciplines including mechanical, electrical, civil, and acoustical. Pathways is an internship program that allows students to work in federal agencies and eventually transition to permanent employment following graduation. CAPT Ken Mead and CDR Deborah Hirst, United States Public Health Service engineering officers with DART EPHB, acted as mentors during Dylan’s two years as a Pathways Intern. The mentoring experience was invaluable for Dylan as he saw firsthand how to apply engineering concepts to the field of occupational safety and health.

Dylan says …

“The best part of my job is the variety of areas I get to explore. I get to work on the design and construction of healthcare environments, airplanes, and manufacturing facilities, among other places. Workers’ environments are varied as are the hazards they face. NIOSH gets to address each of these unique challenges and I really enjoy getting to learn about and to help solve the health and safety challenges workers face. “

“I didn’t see myself working for NIOSH when I started my engineering curriculum in college. After learning about the opportunity to work in a co-op position and exploring the work that NIOSH does, I was excited to be a part of the Institute.”

“I have always wanted to be in a position of service to others; it’s the reason I got into biomedical engineering in the first place, to help people live better lives. NIOSH allows me to use my engineering abilities to induce positive, healthy changes in people’s lives. Getting to see the changes we can make for a wide array of industries and workers makes my work at NIOSH rewarding every single day. Some engineers go to work to make their company more money, but I get to go to work to make my country a safer and better place to live and work for my fellow citizens.”


Dylan’s Engineering Work with DART EPHB

Since earning his degree, Dylan’s work in DART EPHB has focused on developing and testing engineering controls to protect workers in the healthcare industry from occupational hazards. Some of his projects include: a performance protocol for closed system transfer devices to ensure adequate protection for pharmacy workers compounding hazardous drugs, a computer control interface for an airflow control system on a mock airborne infection isolation room to explore the role of ventilation placement and rates in protecting healthcare workers from infection, investigating the use of ultraviolet light systems for ambulance cabin surface disinfection, and most recently investigating new ventilation system designs for use in ambulances to better protect EMS workers from patients’ pathogens.

Engineers at NIOSH contribute to improving worker health and safety in a variety of fascinating, unforeseen ways. They can indirectly mitigate hazards by building solutions for the workplace or designing out the hazards that can cause a particular health and safety challenge.

Have a workplace health and safety problem that could benefit from engineering applications? Let us know! Also, please share with our readers examples of how engineers have helped solve workplace safety and health problems in your organization.

Trudi McCleery, MPH, is a Health Communications Specialist in the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology, Engineering and Physical Hazards Branch.


For more information

Celebrating Engineers

Engineering and Public Health at CDC

Engineering Controls


Ambulance disinfection using Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI): Effects of fixture location and surface reflectivity. William G. Lindsley, Tia L. McClelland, Dylan T. Neu, Stephen B. Martin Jr., Kenneth R. Mead, Robert E. Thewlis & John D. Noti. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene Vol. 15, Iss. 1, 2018



Posted on by Trudi McCleery, MPH

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Page last reviewed: March 12, 2018
Page last updated: March 12, 2018