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Measuring Pollution: New Master’s Degree Designed to Improve Environmental Policy

October 25, 2018 – A master’s program that teaches students to measure and analyze potential hazardous substances in the earth’s atmosphere or on its surface so they can make appropriate environmental policy now accepting applications for the fall 2019 semester.

YuYe Tong

The new interdisciplinary Master of Science in Environmental Metrology and Policy degree, offered nights and weekends, is designed to equip scientists and engineers with a better understanding of environmental measurements science so they can make sound environmental decisions in their careers.

“You can only prevent hazardous exposures that you can measure. Having the tools to address some of the nation’s most pressing pollution challenges requires a sophisticated understanding of how to measure pollution using a wide variety of methods,” says YuYe Tong, chemistry professor and the new program’s director. “Our vision is to teach and train individuals to be skillful with both sides of the equation – both the science as well as the processes through which science can best inform policymaking.”


Agency Expertise

Students in the program will benefit from being taught by Georgetown faculty members as well as experts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Antonio Possolo, chief statistician of NIST, for example, will lead the program’s course on Statistical Methods in Environmental Metrology. Kevin Teichman, senior science advisor in the Office of Research and Development at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will teach courses on Advanced Environmental Policymaking Science I & II: A Study of Practical Cases, in which he will share with students his insights on many real-life policymaking cases at EPA.

“There’s a gap in terms of education in chemical and biochemical metrology and even at NIST it can take several years to train people in terms of mastering the principles and methodologies in metrology,” says Tong. “The new program will help address that issue and be convenient to full-time workers.”

First of Its Kind

Tong says the new two-year program, offered through Georgetown’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, is the first of its kind in the United States.

“No other program is offering this type of broad expertise and marketable skills to tomorrow’s scientists and engineers interested in leading environmental research and policymaking at all levels of government, industry and other organizations,” he says.

In addition to coursework, the program includes a funded summer internship and a capstone research project.

Ensuring Chemical Safety

Tong notes that the Master of Science in Environmental Metrology and Policy begins at a time, in the United States and globally, of increased interest and accountability in corporate social responsibility toward the environment and green legislation aimed at protecting citizens from contaminants and their associated health risks.

The United States’ Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was updated in 2016 to include more protections, and the European Union established a task force in 2014 to further evaluate chemicals and protect the environment, in addition to its Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) that entered into force on June 1, 2007.

“The enactment of the new TSCA is really bipartisan,” says Tong. “It’s all about ensuring the chemical safety in the space where we live and work.”

‘Garden Of God’

He says the new program aligns closely with Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit traditions.

“This earth is the garden of God, so how do you take care of it?” Tong says. “There’s no doubt all these man-made chemical materials have helped us enjoy our life, but they also create potential hazards. Knowing how to deal with that and to mitigate potential damage to the planet and its people is what this program is all about.”