Monday, October 21, 2013

Career Advantages of Being a Modeler

It occurred to me recently that I have not given you all the really good reasons why you should be dedicated to learning modeling. I will attempt to do so herein. The reasons are listed and further explained below:

  1.      It’s cool!
  2.  It will really help you in your job as an industrial hygienist or exposure assessor
  3.  You will become a relatively rare and sought after animal
  4.  It could dramatically increase your value to your employer

It’s Cool:
Huey Lewis once sang that “its hip to be square!”   If you have any feel for science at all, understanding or looking into the workings of reality can be a real rush.  The Science Channel counts on this human trait to gather viewers.  Indeed, seeking and organizing the factors that drive human exposure in any scenario is part of being human and many of us find it to be simply fun.   Let’s face it, we are curious animals that love to be competent and develop tools (i.e., models)  and acting on that curiosity is an end in itself for many of us.

It will really help you in your job as an industrial hygienist or exposure assessor:
Modeling will inform your judgment as to where the significant exposures might be whether they occur in the present, happened in the past or have not occurred as yet.   It will allow you to estimate the exposure potential of scenarios literally on the other side of the globe.   I should also ultimately mean you will most likely waste less time monitoring some exposure scenarios  that do not need measuring while focusing on other that do.  Properly done, skill in modeling could in the long run mean less direct monitoring and more effort put into characterizing what exactly is causing the potential over-exposures. 

You will become a relatively rare and sought after animal:
Thanks to the efforts of my colleagues within the AIHA there are quite a few more modelers out there in the Industrial Hygiene Community than there were 20 years ago when we started beating the drum but there are frankly still relatively few.   It is not the sort of discipline that you pick up very quickly and there are very few places to actually learn it.   The 2 day AIHA Professional Development Course is probably the best but it is very intense and, while Rome was not built in a day, it is even harder to “make a modeler” in two days.    Indeed, there are quite a few reasons that there remains a relative lack of folks that are reasonably skilled in human exposure modeling.   I outline this situation in detail in the following document:    

Those of you that read this short Word document will find that it is an “offer of service” to clients to take the time and attention needed to actually train professionals on-the-job in modeling to have them become fully functional.   The offer has been out for a while and I have yet to have any takers.   If I get a lot of response to this particular blog I may reproduce it in a future blog.   Frankly, it walks the line between service to you and your management and self-promotion but I am willing to take that chance to get the word out.
The fact remains that there are very few places to get this training and that if you take the time to do so you will be a rare, and valuable, exception.    You will no longer be someone who just measures and interprets exposures. You will be a technologist that predicts exposures and understands and can explain the scientific basis for that judgment.  That skill is worth something as the next point stresses.

It could dramatically increase your value to your employer:
I tell you truthfully, that being able to model exposures (and dose-response) made my career at the Rohm and Haas Company.   The skill was responsible for at least 3 promotions within that company.   Using models, I was able to predict exposures with just a modicum of data and the invocation of assumptions.   I could explain and justify those predictions based on first principle (and review-able) science and the managers just loved it.   Over 80% of my work was rendering these informed and explained technical opinions regarding the relative safety of products.   When the margins of safety were high enough, it gave them the confident knowledge they needed to proceed.   When the margins were not adequate, it gave me the necessary arguments (and support from my management) to obtain more information and data to reduce the uncertainty and usually the predicted level of risk.

Bottom Line:  Becoming skilled at modeling is not an easy or a short road but it’s the road less traveled and it could offer tremendous benefits to you and your career. 


  1. Hi Michael,
    There is another reason to be a modeler. At the end, you may win a Nobel prize!!! The 2013 Chemistry Nobel prize has been awarded to 3 chemists from USA and they are ,... modelers ! ;-)

    Daniel D.

    1. How does one calculate the so-called acceptable safety margin...using the classical CDF at 50% motality?

  2. The notion of "acceptability" is interesting and certainly political. Acceptable to who? Is it acceptable to the person being exposed or the ones doing the exposure or some third party? As you may have gathered by now, my blog deals primarily with exposure but toxicology remains fully half the picture in risk assessment. Often Margin of Safety is the ratio of the exposure limit/exposure and the larger the margin the greater the "acceptability". The critical issue of the actual level of risk extant at any exposure limit is a topic I have worked on for more than a dozen years and I am still working. Please stay tuned!