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Career Profiles:

John Zummo

1. What is a brief description of your job?
video My official title is Radiation Safety Officer, which means I'm responsible for managing the radiation safety programs at Genentech.

2. Where did you grow up?
video I was born and raised in New York City. I spent my entire life there through college. I live in San Francisco California now, and I've lived in San Francisco for about 9 years.

3. What training and degrees do you hold? What were the specific areas of study?
video I have a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. And also a master's in health physics. Health physics is basically a mixture of chemistry, physics, and biology.

5. What is the minimum training that is required for your job?
video To be a radiation safety officer, pretty much a minimum would be a bachelor's degree. Most people do have a master's degree or several years experience in the field.

6. How many years of study are typically needed to acquire the training for your job?
video Pretty much a four year degree, a bachelor's degree plus anywhere from four to five years experience in the field, either a combination of a master's degree or less experience or just plain experience.

7. What percentage of an average day is spent using your training?
video On an average day I probably spend maybe 25-30 percent of my time doing radiation safety. The rest of the time is administrative, managerial type functions that don't always have a lot to do with radiation safety but are part of the job anyway.
video When I'm not doing radiation safety things, as a manager I have people working for me. I have to take care of their needs and wants. I also have budgetary functions, keeping track of budgets or some accounting types of things have to be done. And just general day to day meetings with other groups, in the environmental health and safety area.

8. What science education, if any, is useful in your field?
video Pretty much a standard biology, chemistry, and physics are needed. There are some people who have engineering degrees that go into environmental health and safety, but a solid foundation of the basics is really what's required.

9. What general work skills do you use on a daily basis?
video We don't really spend a lot of time in the laboratory so we don't use a lot of laboratory skills, what you might expect. A lot of what we do is training, so presentation skills are important. And a lot of writing, so communication skills, verbal and written are very important to us.

10. Are you working in isolation or with a team of co-workers or subordinates?
video The environmental health and safety group is about a dozen people, and there are smaller sub groups within that. The radiation safety group is myself and two other people. So ,we pretty much work as a team rather than separately or in isolation.

11. What are your working conditions? Dress codes? Environment (Indoor or Outdoor)?
video Most of the radiation safety work is done inside, either in an office environment, in a classroom, or in a laboratory. So, we don't really get to do a lot of things outside. As far as dress code goes, it's pretty casual. Genentech has a very casual dress code.

12. What is the biggest challenge you face in your field?
video The biggest challenge, I think, is working with such a wide variety of people. As a radiation safety officer, I deal with people from the CEO and Vice Presidents on down. So, being able to communicate with a broad range of people is quite a challenge sometimes.

13. What is the most rewarding experience in your field?
video In radiation safety I'd say the most rewarding experience is being able to talk to people and put their minds at ease if they're concerned about doing a certain task, and explain things to them and make them feel comfortable with what they're doing.

14. How did your interest in your field develop?
video I have a background in chemistry. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry in chemistry when I just got out of school. Then I joined the Navy nuclear power program and that's how I got involved with health physics and radiation safety.

15. What did you want to be in high school?
video High school was a long time ago. I think I wanted to be a doctor, when I was in high school, a medical career kind of interested me but as I went on to college, I kind of changed gears and went more towards science than medicine.

I spent one summer working at a hospital and I didn't like the pain and suffering that wasaround in a hospital environment, and I think I wanted to be in the lab where things were a lot safer.

16. Was school easy or hard for you then, and did you like it?
video I always found school pretty easy, so I guess I kind of breezed through a lot of classes. I guess I enjoyed.

17. Are you doing now what you expected to do when you finished school?
video As a radiation safety officer, I get involved in doing a lot of things, both science and non-science, and that's kind of what I wanted to do when I was in my career. So, I'm pretty much happy with the way things turned out.

18. What advice do you have for students interested in your field?
video Radiation safety is one of these multidisciplinary areas where it's important to have a good background in chemistry and biology and physics. So my advice would be to get a broad based background in those sciences.

19. Beginning with high school, what science courses do you recommend to prepare for your field?
video In high school it would be important to take the standard math classes: geometry, trigonometry, algebra, as well as the basic sciences; physics, chemistry, biology, things of that nature.

20. How is the future projection for jobs in this career? Do you forsee an increase in demand in the future?
video Radiation safety officers will pretty much always work in biotech or pharmaceutical companies, any place in research and development, where isotopes or machines are used. But more so in hospitals and in clinical settings, where isotopes and machines are used for diagnosis or therapy or imaging purposes.

21. Do you use the Internet on a daily basis? If so, how?
video Probably not on a daily basis. I think I use the Internet three or four times a week. There're a lot of universities and a lot of health physics professionals have web sites and it's usually a good place to find information. So you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you can see what somebody else has done in a similar situation.

22. With regard to your profession, which web sites do you recommend for students interested in your field?
video There's a very good radiation safety web site that's run by the University of Michigan, I think it's called Radiation and Health Physics. That has a lot of links to a lot of other web sites and a lot of radiation related information. Also, the Health Physics Society has their own web site with a lot of good information, and also a lot of good links to other sites.

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