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New Master’s Degree Melds Environmental Measurements Science and Policy

April 27, 2017 –  A new interdisciplinary master’s program, designed to give students the skills to conduct rigorous scientific measurement and analysis of toxins, hazardous substances and other materials in the earth’s atmosphere and surface, will be offered this fall.

YuYe TongThe aim is to equip students with a better understanding of environmental measurements science and policy.

“The idea is that you want to use the best available science to inform the process of policymaking” says YuYe Tong, chemistry professor and program director for the Master of Science in Environmental Metrology & Policy. “Our vision is to teach and train people to be skillful with both sides of the equation – to understand the science and the processes through which how science can best inform the policymaking.”

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.  

Real-Life Reflections

Faculty members and experts from Georgetown, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will teach in the program.

Antonio Possolo, chief statistician of NIST, for example, will lead the program’s course on Statistical Methods in Environmental Metrology.

“What’s happening in real life will be reflected in the classroom, and vice versa” Tong notes.

Education Gap

In addition to coursework, the program includes a 10-week summer internship and a capstone research project.

Tong says the new program also leverages Georgetown’s location in the nation’s capital and its proximity to federal agencies.

“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.

Ensuring Chemical Safety

He notes that the Master of Science in Environmental Metrology and Policy begins at a time of widespread green legislation aimed at protecting citizens from contaminants and their associated health risks.

The United States’ Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was updated last year to include more protections, and the European Union established a task force in 2014 to further evaluate chemicals and protect the environment.

“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 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 is what this program is all about.”