Nena MoonierBy John Spizzirri • August 9, 2013
Nena Moonier is an associate user safety officer and biological safety officer at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source.
What kind of work do you do at Argonne?
As the Advanced Photon Source (APS) associate user safety officer, I help to implement and administer the beamline and user experiment safety program. We review nearly 5,000 experiments annually and ensure that the program is kept current with Argonne and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Environmental Safety and Health (ESH) standards and requirements. In addition to user experiment reviews, I participate in the development and maintenance of user safety policies and procedures and safety audits of the individual beamline sectors.
In my role as biological safety officer, I oversee the possession and handling of all biological materials at the APS. The site-wide biological safety officer and I co-chair the Argonne Institutional Biosafety Committee, a federally mandated committee charged with the maintenance and implementation of Argonne’s biosafety program.
How does Argonne support and prepare you for your job responsibilities?
The foundation of all safety positions within the laboratory begins with baseline safety and quality assurance training which the lab provides. I have also completed a number of off-site training courses and as an active member of the American Biological Safety Association, I attend its annual meetings and associated workshops when possible. I also recently helped organize a Chicago-based group of biosafety officers that will actively work to create training opportunities for local safety personnel through interface with local and federal organizations.
What attracted you to work at Argonne?
When I was in grad school, one of my friends came to an open house here at the lab. The level of excitement she showed about the cutting-edge work conducted at Argonne led me to investigate the diverse programs Argonne had to offer. I was convinced that I would have a more exciting experience here at a DOE lab than working in a single-discipline academic or industrial lab.
How does Argonne support a positive work-life balance for you?
Argonne has always been very supportive of family life. My husband also works at the APS. Our work hours are offset, which allows us some flexibility when trying to balance work and our home lives with our two little girls. Flexible work schedule policies allow us to participate in many of our children’s milestones, which might not have been possible elsewhere.
What sorts of mentoring experiences have you had at Argonne?
I’ve been mentored by many people at Argonne. I have been actively mentored by my supervisor, who developed and grew the user experiment safety program at the APS. This allowed me to learn directly from the source about the safety review process. And working side-by-side with the ESH coordinators in my division has strengthened my skills at hazard assessment.
The scientific community at Argonne is enthusiastic and always willing to discuss their research. I have learned so much over the years just from asking questions of the scientists. That collegial and friendly atmosphere is why we have a high employee retention rate. Much of this job is centered on positive and productive interaction with the scientific community. Establishing a good working relationship with your colleagues and customers makes it easier to achieve the common goal of a safe working environment.
How do collaborations impact your work?
I interact with a wide variety of scientists and support staff on a daily basis. Safety reviews at the APS involve employees with a broad expanse of expertise — industrial hygienists, radiation safety experts, nuclear engineers, occupational health personnel, and so on. Each time I carry out a risk assessment with someone from an unrelated field, I gain a little more knowledge from their set of expertise.
What’s a good way to encourage our nation’s children to get involved in science and engineering careers?
Natural curiosity already makes children young scientists at heart. So, I think it’s important to capture that interest early. Argonne’s range of educational programs helps demonstrate that a good understanding of the sciences can lead to a fascinating lifelong career. When we show students how science affects their everyday lives, we’re encouraging a new generation of scientists and engineers who share the same enthusiasm that we have.