Maureen Murtaugh, PhD
Targeted Research Training Program Director
RMCOEH Graduate Academic Advisor
At the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, we know a lot about workers and the challenges and factors that affect their health, safety, and well-being.
But just as important is what we don’t know.
Enter our Targeted Research Training program, where PhD students and postdoctoral fellows develop the skills to perform the kind of research that moves the needle—research that illuminates new areas of focus, shapes the way occupational safety and health professionals think about key issues, and offers previously unknown pathways to protecting workers.
Typical trainees in RMCOEH’s Targeted Research Training program, which is housed within the University of Utah start the program with at least a foundation of research knowledge and have performed research alongside professors while pursuing an earlier degree.
But this is where they take their skills to the next level.
In the course of the program, they gain in-depth education in occupational and environmental health and safety research needs, the responsibilities of a researcher, utilizing statistical methods for evaluating exposure risks, and implementing optimal research methodologies for quantifying and assessing risks.
Importantly, our training goes far beyond theoretical, classroom-based instruction. Working with our nationally recognized faculty, trainees roll up their sleeves and dig in, conducting high-level research. Topics include: exposure science, occupational biomechanics, transportation safety, occupational safety and health-related economics, and workplace mental health.
A trainee may study the relationship between loading and unloading cargo and musculoskeletal disorders in long-haul truck drivers. Or how business practices in the construction, trucking, and extraction industries affect the rate and severity of workplace injuries. Or the effect of decades of contamination from the uranium mining industry on the Navajo Nation.
Whatever the focus of a project, our faculty and a team of mentors are there every step of the way, offering guidance to ensure the trainee produces research that has a meaningful impact, while also developing the building blocks on the road to become a funded independent researcher.
The research experience and specialized knowledge trainees receive provides them tremendous professional opportunities, with the ability to tailor a career path that suits their interests and ambitions. Rewarding careers are available in academia, government, and private industry. One recent trainee, for instance, is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, while another plays a key role in the occupational health and safety program of one of the country’s largest car manufacturers.
The possibilities are limitless.
So, too, is the potential of our trainees in the Targeted Research Training program. They emerge with the experience of unearthing knowledge that can make a difference in the lives of workers — and with the skills to do it again and again as they blaze new trails in occupational and environmental health and safety.