16:21 PM

Alum credits UHCL for a successful environmental science career

Written by: Lauren Sawyer
Bernadette Guillermo and her mother at UHCL graduation.

As a hazard analyst for emergency planning at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Bernadette Guillermo travels to various Department of Energy (DOE) facilities across the United States, employing her expertise gained from the University of Houston- Clear Lake (UHCL). Today she credits UHCL for her successful career, where she plays a critical role in emergency planning and preparedness.

Bernadette’s love for travel inspired her to leave her native country of the Philippines and start a new journey in the United States. When she decided to attend college for a master’s degree, Bernadette said she compared several universities that offered an industrial hygiene (IH) program. After visiting UHCL, she knew she had found “home.”

“I loved the scenery, quiet atmosphere, and how spacious it was,” said Bernadette. “I just started driving on my own when I started at UHCL, and had to drive from Cypress, Texas the entire time I attended,” she explained. “The drive was worth it.”

Bernadette earned a master’s degree in environmental science specializing in industrial hygiene (Master of Science in Occupational Safety and Health), from UHCL in December 2016. According to Bernadette, her professors were knowledgeable and informative about the internship opportunities UHCL provided. During her first summer semester, she attended a university-hosted meeting where the Health Safety and Environment (HSE) lead of LyondellBasell, who is also a UHCL alumnus, announced an internship opportunity.

“I applied and was offered an internship position in their corporate office in downtown Houston,” said Bernadette.

LyondellBasell has been a long-term partner with the education program at UHCL’s Environmental Institute of Houston.

Bernadette said she was thankful for her mentors in LyondellBasell’s downtown office because they trusted her abilities and gave her the opportunity to get hands-on experience as an industrial hygienist while completing her degree.

“I learned the importance of teamwork, and effective communication skills. Being able to interact with my colleagues in a cohesive environment was imperative to achieve goals,” she said. “I also wasn’t afraid to ask questions. Asking questions gave me understanding to better research the controls and technology applicable to my job.”

Bernadette added that Interim Dean of College of Science and Engineering Robert Phalen served as her mentor even after she graduated, and was very helpful with providing resources, his time, and invaluable feedback.

“When I was working at Celanese, another chemical plant in Texas, I asked Dr. Phalen for help with some IH concerns that I had not encountered before,” said Bernadette. “Even with my application at LANL, he also provided his time in helping me.”

Bernadette not only advanced academically but also personally. She overcame challenges such as learning to drive in Houston, a skill she honed while driving from her home in Cypress.

The skills and experiences she acquired at UHCL also helped her land internships at LyondellBasell’s Corpus Christi, La Porte, and Lake Charles locations, all while being enrolled as a full-time student at UHCL. She said she wanted to complete her degree as soon as possible, and was able to in two years with the accommodations provided by her managers and professors.

“I talked to my managers about my schedule, and they worked with me so I could still attend some classes on-site and go home on weekends to complete my assignments,” she said.

She added that her degree was an in-person program, but her professors allowed her to take the online courses offered in her occupational safety specialization, allowing her to be hybrid.

All of my professors mentored us so that we would have a successful career after graduating. They provided an atmosphere of camaraderie among all students —graduate and undergraduate under the Occupational Safety and Health program.

Bernadette Guillermo, M.S., CIH, CSP

When Bernadette is not on the clock, she enjoys traveling, trying local foods, and volunteering. Her love for volunteering is the way she gives back to the community. She volunteers in professional groups and at work, and all of the companies and organizations she works with have a volunteer program.

“You get to help the community and do it with other people, who may be instrumental in your next career. I am reemphasizing here, the value of volunteering and having it on your resume,” she said.

Bernadette’s advice to students is to get involved, and take advantage of the resources that UHCL provides them. She gave a few helpful tips for students to be successful:

Tip 1: Get a membership to professional groups. Memberships are often free or a very minimal fee to students.

Tip 2: Participate in meetings and volunteer. This is a good networking opportunity. Volunteering also helps increase your knowledge for a small cost.

Tip 3: Get your resume evaluated. UHCL offers evaluation of resumes and more at Career Services.

Tip 4: Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Get advice from your professors while completing your degree or early in your career.

Tip 5: Attend conferences. There are often big discounts for students that want to attend, and you’ll meet alumni who could potentially be hiring managers.

For more information about UHCL’s Master of Science in Occupational Safety and Health, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/occupational-safety-health-ms.