The Tufts Environmental Alumni association (TEA) unites Tufts alumni around the world who share a common interest in environmental issues and policies. The association aims to provide its members with information and resources, a venue to share their combined learning and experience, and educational and service opportunities.
Jane Parkin Kullman earned her M.S. in Water-Resources Engineering through Tufts' Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in 2006. Currently at Amec Foster Wheeler, Jane works as a Senior Human Health Risk Assessor, conducting risk assessments federal and state-based programs evaluating such media as soil and its vapor, water, and air via exposure pathways and their potential impacts on public health
Taylor Parrish: How are you using what you learned at Tufts in your current work? Jane Parkin Kullmann: I use what I learned at Tufts every day! My masters program was in environmental engineering, so my classes in fate and transport and toxicology (for example) help me to understand how chemicals move in the environment, how they might come to be located where people could be exposed to them, and what might happen to people when they are exposed. My Tufts education gave me great practical knowledge that I use in my work, and also helped me refine my writing and critical thinking skills.
What drew you to the steering committee of the TEA chapter?
Two of my favorite things are environmental awareness and alumni involvement, and TEA is the perfect combination of these! I have been involved in TEA almost since it began because I wanted to contribute to opportunities for people who are interested in the environment and environmental issues to get together.
What do you bring to the chapter?
Enthusiasm, a passion for environmental awareness, and my small band of merry hikers (husband and two children) for our semi-annual hiking outings.
Alison Simcox completed a Ph.D. in Water-Resources Engineering through Tufts' Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. Currently at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Alison works primarily on the Clear Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) which aims to address the regional transport of smog and soot, an extreme public health hazard, by reducing the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.
Libby Mahaffy: How are you using what you learned at Tufts in your current work? Alison Simcox: Currently, I am an environmental scientist at the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) New England office in Boston. I returned to graduate school, starting at the University of Arizona and transferring to Tufts, after working many years as a geologist and hydrologist at consulting firms and government agencies (USGS and US EPA). This was a golden opportunity for me to broaden my knowledge of science, to gain more technical and analytical skills, and to teach. In addition, I was fortunate to have a research position throughout my tenure at Tufts at the National Council of Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), a research institute for the forest-products industry.
It’s difficult to distill what I learned at Tufts into a statement about my current work. At Tufts, I deepened my knowledge of water-resources engineering, hydrologic modeling, chemistry, statistics, and other subjects, and gained a new admiration for the ability and creativity of scientists and engineers in addressing (but not necessarily solving) complex environmental problems. I also verified what I had known about myself before – that I enjoy academic challenges and, through sheer persistence, can attain goals that I set for myself.
A few years after returning to EPA, I shifted my career into the air-quality and energy fields. It was, in part, my experience at Tufts in successfully tackling new subjects that gave me the confidence to jump into new environmental disciplines. I also initiated and continue to manage a large modeling project to predict mercury levels in fish and fish-eating birds in lakes throughout New England. Knowledge that I gained at Tufts about GIS and remote-sensing technology, watershed processes, and statistics was key to demonstrating my ability to manage this project. Planning and organizational skills that I acquired during my dissertation research are also assets in all my current work.
What drew you to the steering committee of the Tufts Environmental Alumni chapter? I was invited to join by a member of the TEA steering committee, Mark Teitz, who I knew through a local church. While chatting on the commuter train from Boston, we discovered that we had both attended Tufts and had professional interests in environmental issues. That chat was one of those unexpected events that turn out to have a lasting effect on my life. I decided to join TEA because I had had little interaction with the Tufts alumni since completing my doctorate in 1998, and wanted to reconnect with an academic community. I was also curious to learn how an alumni group could help current and former students in their careers and professional development.
What do you bring to the chapter? Over the years, I have built a network of colleagues in a variety of work settings, including consulting, academia, and government. Coincidentally, two other members of the TEA steering committee [have] work[ed] at the same firm, Haley & Aldrich, where I had previously worked.
I have considerable hands-on experience doing scientific research, and in developing and implementing environmental regulations. I have also worked as a science writer and enjoy writing about science in a way that avoids jargon and can be understood by non-scientists. I hope this background will be valuable to TEA as we plan activities and interact with environmental scientists and policy-makers.
Currently retired, Mark Taitz has served for over 25 years in leadership positions at various environmental organizations, most recently as a Financial Adviser at Merril Lynch where he worked to assist clients in meeting their sustainable investment goals.
Libby Mahaffy: How are you using what you learned at Tufts in your current job? Mark Taitz: I majored in political science and minored in education. Beyond a fabulous education in liberal arts, I didn’t have any specific on-the-job training as you would for [a field like] engineering. Tufts gave me a terrific background: how to think, how to process, and how to synthesize what I’ve learned and put it to business use. For the past 25 years, I’ve been involved in business development with three different environmentally-focused companies as VP of business development. Two of them [were] divisions of public companies, and the other a small manufacturing company in New Hampshire specializing in the manufacture of bio-fuels. I got my environmental experience with those companies, and now as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch I’ve carried over the environmental aspects and focus on working with clients who want to balance their portfolios with socially responsible investments including clean energy and global infrastructure
Why were you interested in being a part of the TEA steering committee? I’ve maintained a very strong interest in environmental issues from my previous work experience. I’m interested in networking and Tufts-oriented affinity groups that share a common interest. The fact that Tufts offers a group [with] an environmental focus gives me an opportunity to talk with people who share similar interests.
What do you bring to the steering committee? I’m the only guy! (laughs) I have a lot of organizational skills. I’ve worked on a lot of committees in the past, in particular for church and community activities. In my previous experience I managed cost issues, so this is really just about the process — getting this group off the ground and sustaining it. Our particular focus right now is on sustaining the momentum that we’ve built up with the several events that we’ve sponsored so far and also to try to expand our scope geographically. I’d like to think that I have some ability to coordinate and help keep people focused on the process.