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Lee Greenawald, PhD: An up and coming leader in PPE

Posted on by Jaclyn Krah Cichowicz, MA

During Women’s History Month, NIOSH will highlight several female researchers and their contributions to NIOSH and America’s workers.

Lee Greenawald, PhD, is a NIOSH career development success story. While working on her B.S. in Forensic Chemistry from Ohio University, Lee began her career at NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) as a summer student in 2009. In those early summer student days at the Lab, she assisted with both qualitative and quantitative respirator fit testing, as well as participating in respirator gas and vapor testing.

Throughout her education, Dr. Greenawald continued to enhance her learning experience by connecting her education to her NIOSH research. Lee joined the Office of Personnel Managements’ Pathways Program as she pursued her PhD in chemistry from West Virginia University (WVU). During this time, she worked at the NPPTL facility in Morgantown, where she was able to focus on chemical research on the development of respirator cartridge end-of-service life indicators (ESLI) used in half and full facepiece elastomeric respirators. She focused on developing a colorimetric, quantitative sensor for detecting hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide. This optical colorimetric quantitative sensor was the subject matter used for her PhD dissertation.  According to Lee, her supervisors at NIOSH/NPPTL were very supportive. Many of her supervisors came to her PhD defense in support. She was able to later publish that research with co-authors from NIOSH, WVU, and the University of California-San Diego.

Dr. Greenawald became a NIOSH federal employee in 2016 and began to undertake projects in a leadership capacity. Currently, Dr. Greenawald is examining the effect of stockpiling conditions on respirators and surgical gowns. This research is important to the over 18 million healthcare workers who rely on stockpiled respirators and surgical gowns in the event of outbreaks such as SARS, influenza, and Ebola, as well as during emergency responses like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Lee explained that this is the first project in which she’s participated in field work (to collect stockpiled respirators), which she finds very interesting. This field work has helped her to understand the practical implications and directly see stakeholders who will benefit from the project.

Her other research includes working with the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center to evaluate newly-identified chemical/radiological threats against the filter performance of commercial chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) canisters. The goal of this research is to determine if NIOSH’s current CBRN standard test representative agents need updating to include any of these potential new threats. She is also working on a project to assess glove protective performance against fentanyl when gloves are stored in hot or cold environments, such as when gloves are stored in police cars.

“Lee Greenawald is an outstanding, energetic, and skilled chemist. She not only excels at her niche work as a chemist, but has sought out numerous opportunities to get involved with all NPPTL priorities. She is a mentor to students, a team player across the Division and the Institute, a problem solver, and an exceptional presenter. Lee’s future at NIOSH is bright as she continues to successfully navigate challenges and opportunities and make her impact on occupational safety and health.” NPPTL Director Maryann D’Alessandro

“Dr. Greenawald demonstrates high levels of integrity through acts of fairness and inclusion. She is a self-motivated and competent researcher with a strong work ethic. Her openness to learning, stepping outside of her comfort zone, and conflict resolution form the essential building blocks for an impactful career.” Senior Scientist, Susan Moore.

As Dr. Greenwald immerses herself in the pursuit of knowledge and contributing to the production of NIOSH research, she has become a valuable member of the Lab and the community of researchers working to protect America’s workers.

Jaclyn Krah Cichowicz, MA, is a Health Communications Specialist at NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory

Posted on by Jaclyn Krah Cichowicz, MA

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