Research in Brief: Sophomore Presents Research at a Global Conference

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 – Dana Drecksel (NHS’17), an international health major at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, presented her research on hydraulic fracturing and silica dust exposure during a poster session at a recent conference in Seattle.

The International Society for Environmental Epidemiology conference, held at the University of Washington, took as its theme, “From Local to Global: Advancing Science for Policy in Environmental Health.”

David Goldsmith, PhD, MSPH, associate professor of human science, led the research and is second author on the poster.

Protecting Workers’ Health

In 2013, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a study that showed that workers at hydraulic fracturing jobsites are regularly exposed to harmful levels of crystalline silica.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Inhalation of very small (respirable) crystalline silica particles puts workers at risk for silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease.”

Drecksel’s research examined the steps the hydraulic fracturing industry took after the publication of the NIOSH report.

She administered a survey to the health, safety, and environment directors of 28 oil and gas companies that engage in hydraulic fracturing operations to determine what measures they had taken.

Challenging Research

Drecksel says that the most challenging part of research was obtaining the data and getting in contact with the companies.

“I not only had to figure out who to contact, but how to contact them,” she says. “It took hours of research, phone calls, and emails to finally reach the right people.”

Though the company representatives acknowledged receipt of Drecksel’s survey, none of them responded to it.

“I was not frustrated by that fact, as I knew that just being in contact with them was a notable finding in itself,” she says.

Future Scholar

Drecksel says she enjoys doing research. During her first year on the Hilltop, she engaged in three other research opportunities at Georgetown.

“I undoubtedly will continue to do research throughout my undergraduate career and beyond, and plan to go to medical school directly after college,” she says.

Drecksel’s abstract was also accepted for a poster session at another international conference, to be held in October in Saskatchewan, Canada.

By Masha Mikey (S’15)