This application is to continue the successful NIOSH TPG at Virginia Tech.
Our aims are to provide a high quality education to trainees, to have them conduct high quality basic and/or applied research, and to provide service to our profession, to industry, and to society. A key goal of our program is support the NIOSH goal of supplying qualified professionals who move on to careers that focus on occupational safety health, through both research and practice. Our proposed program emphasizes three aspects of occupational safety and health (OSH) at the MS (thesis) and PhD levels: safety engineering, occupational ergonomics, and construction OSH. The former two aspects have been a concentration of the program for several years, while the latter emphasis is being added to benefit from the growing collaboration between several academic and research units at Virginia Tech: Department of Industrial &Systems Engineering (ISE), the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and the Center for Innovation in Construction Safety and Health. The need for training in these areas is justified in several ways, though primarily by the continuing levels of occupational accidents, injuries and illnesses, substantial pre-doctoral interest, educational needs in contemporary OSH positions, and the national need for trained researchers and practitioners in these areas. Our program is characterized by a dual emphasis on breadth of trainee experience and the requirement for specialization, the latter emphasized by the need for a formal research project related to OSH. TPG funds allow us to maintain this emphasis, as well as attract and retain outstanding trainees. A broad, yet cohesive group of faculty and staff have been assembled to support the program, all of whom were involved in the prior project period. Training is achieved through a combination of formal coursework, faculty advising, research, and more general exposure through seminars and interdisciplinary interactions. In response to prior feedback, several changes have been made to the training requirements. A more cohesive and straightforward set of coursework and training requirements has been created (as a new OSH "Track" within the ISE department). In this, a core set of courses exists at both the MS and PhD levels, and each trainee conducts a formal research project. In addition, a new OSH practicum has been added, to provide trainees with field experiences in safety engineering, occupational ergonomics, and/or industrial hygiene. Several mechanisms are either in place or proposed to evaluate and improve the program, including an external advisory committee and trainee feedback, and a plan for diversity enhancement, enrollment, and retention that is aligned with the University's Diversity Strategic Plan. Candidates for our program are MS or PhD students accepted within the Human Factors Engineering and Ergonomics graduate concentration area within the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department. Prospective trainees are also actively recruited through several means. Our program overall has been quite successful during the prior period, based on the number of graduates, the high proportion of graduates continuing in the OSH field, faculty and student scholarly output, awards, and the continuing high number of applications received. The program plan described here is intended to continue in a similar fashion, while also improving in several key areas. The current application seeks support for the program for five years, and is budgeted to support three full-time, pre-doctoral trainees. Among the three, we plan to support a mix of trainees at the MS and PhD levels, with a particular emphasis on future practitioners. Our program as a whole, however, is expected to continue at prior levels, with yearly enrollments of approximately 5 MS and 10 PhD trainees. The duration of training is similarly expected to be as in prior years, with MS trainees requiring ~2-2.5 years and PhD students 4-5 years (post- BS).
This application proposes a continuation of our Training Project Grant at Virginia Tech, begun in 1992. Our proposed training focuses on safety engineering, occupational ergonomics, and construction OSH, and supports national and regional needs for practitioners and researchers in these domains.