By: Mira Garin
SDSU School of Public Health Environmental Health MPH alumna, Chelsea Basirico, is a Senior Environmental, Health, & Safety (EHS) Engineer at Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine’s (J&J) research and development facility in La Jolla.
“I had always thought I wanted to pursue medical school or something else that would be patient- focused,” Chelsea began. During her undergraduate degree however, she stumbled across the field of public health and decided to join her university’s public health student group. “I really started to think about how much of our personal health was impacted by our environments,” she explained. Realizing the influence of factors such as drought, air pollution, and heat, with which she was familiar from growing up in Southern California, Chelsea adjusted the aim of her career trajectory to pursue environmental health.
Now working in the pharmaceutical industry as an EHS Engineer, one can often Chelsea walking from one lab to the next, curiously asking the researchers about their ongoing projects, identifying hazards they may encounter, and collaborating with them to ensure they can carry out their jobs safely. However, no two days look the same, and she routinely collects exposure monitoring samples. “I see the passion of our researchers every day,” Chelsea emphasized, “and I don’t take it for granted that they are working on the life-saving medications of the future.”
Whether it be researchers, laboratory operations staff, or facilities maintenance staff, Chelsea is always collaborating with someone. One of her current projects is to expand and strengthen collaborative networks on exposure assessment, industrial hygiene, and chemical management between her work site and an international collection of other sites. “Understanding the [national and international] regulatory landscape has been an interesting challenge and trying to incorporate best practices from all our sites has been very rewarding,” Chelsea reflected. “Working for J&J has been a dream job in a lot of ways, and this project is part of it. I get the opportunity to interface with colleagues all around the world and help effect change at a much larger level.”
Chelsea has worked to view challenges as opportunities for innovation and creativity that connect to her personal mission statement that everyone is entitled to workplaces allowing them to return home to their family and friends safely. Chelsea then offered a few pearls of wisdom for current SPH students looking nervously at the post-graduate world. First and foremost? Bold networking. “I can speak for myself and probably many other young professionals when I say that I am never bothered by a student reaching out to ask about my career journey or just share general advice.” Second, whatever imposter syndrome you may be experiencing, trust that you have been well-trained. “Throughout my career I’ve come into contact with many SDSU SPH alumni, and I’m always impressed by the caliber of professionals that the program has produced,” she noted. “I’m confident that SDSU’s School of Public Health will continue this legacy and the impact will be a better San Diego for all of us.”