AIHA “Invent and Simplify” scholarship goes to PhD student Rachel Thompson

May. 15, 2024
Rachel Thompson

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has awarded PhD student Rachel Thompson the Amazon “Invent and Simplify” scholarship, granting her $5,000 toward her scholarly and professional development.

This AIHA scholarship is meant to recognize “a graduate or post-graduate conducting or planning to conduct research or a capstone project that (1) is innovative in the field of industrial hygiene, occupational health, or related field and (2) has the potential to provide direct impact (efficient, easy, or scalable) on the profession or the health of workers.”

The research project for which Thompson received the Amazon “Invent and Simplify” award is focused on the validation of commercially available low-cost indoor air quality monitors for the detection of chemical exposures in nail salons. Her research team has been recruiting several nail salons in New York City to participate in this study. The idea is that these low-cost sensors, many of which can be purchased online for less than $500, can be used as tools within nail salons to empower workers to be aware of their daily chemical exposures, and use the real-time data produced by the sensors to proactively take measures to reduce their exposures. Thompson’s role in the project is leading the validation component of this study, which involves using statistical approaches to compare the accuracy of the minute-by-minute readings from the low-cost chemical sensors to the readings from previously validated research-grade sensors.

The funds from this award will go a long way in supporting the final year of Thompson’s PhD studies. “As a full-time PhD student supporting myself in New York City, funds like this make a huge difference in allowing me to engage in professional development activities like attending the AIHA meeting,” she says. “This award will not only support my academic and professional development but will also allow me to contribute to the broader mission of protecting and improving the health of workers and disadvantaged communities through the continuation of my research.”

Thompson also wants to recognize the PI of this project, Associate Professor Brian Pavilonis, who asked her to be a part of this research after she took his class on exposure assessment. “If not for Dr. Pavilonis, I would not be involved in such an impactful and interesting research project. Brian has been a fantastic mentor and I have learned so much in my time working with him!”