Holly Haberstroh Ioset

Holly Haberstroh Ioset is a second-generation member of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. She joined the Society in 1977 and currently works for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a compliance officer in North Syracuse, New York.

In the video below, Holly talks about her career with Heather Thorstensen, manager of communications for Sigma Xi. She discusses the field of industrial hygiene, her experience of helping after the September 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center, her experience of balancing work and family life, and her family's history with Sigma Xi. 

Transcript from Video:

Please explain your field, which is industrial hygiene.

Holly Haberstroh Ioset

It's not a very well-known field, it’s a specialty field in the family of environmental studies. An industrial hygienist focuses on the health of the worker, not the environment. So we’re focused on what the exposure is to a worker relating to everything from dust, silica, noise, respiratory hazards, radiation, biological hazards. One of the specialties of an industrial hygienist is monitoring and measuring the contaminants to really determine what the hazard is to the worker.

What made you want to get involved in this field?

I came across it through my hometown of Midland, Michigan, the home of Dow Chemical. After I finished my bachelor’s degree in biology, I worked in the toxicology lab at Dow Chemical and was surrounded by a group of very interesting scientists. There, I came across this field of industrial hygiene which I thought was neat because it involved the science of toxicology, research investigation, but you also get out into the real world. You go to the workplace to do these investigations so it’s not really a lab job, usually.

Holly Haberstrock Ioset at World Trade Center

You helped at the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Can you talk a little bit about that?

I had just started with OSHA. I had previously been with Syracuse University for many years as an industrial hygienist and the month after I switched to OSHA, the World Trade Center was attacked. I had the opportunity, as did many of the compliance officers, to go and serve at the World Trade Center as health and safety monitors. We did air testing, we trained people on how to use protective gear and respirators. We walked out there on the pile and advised people doing testing, hands-on out there where people were working on the recovery. And it was a life-changing event. It helped me understand that we, the United States, had been attacked and that truly was a war zone. The devastation was amazingly huge beyond what you can imagine until you’ve walked across that pile of rubble. But it also made me very, very proud to be doing what I do, proud to be serving the worker and trying to keep the workers, the recovery workers, safe during that hard job they were doing. 

This is an industry that you returned to after you took some time off to have kids. How much time did you take off and what was it like for you to come back to the workforce?

I had been with OSHA early on in my career. My baby girl was due. I was actually on limited duty for a while, as you can imagine. I wasn’t out there in the workplaces with the contamination and the uncertainty. So during my pregnancy, I had limited duty. Then after, I got into this new role. I realized I needed to take some time off. I had the desire and the need to be there, taking care of my little one. So I took six years off. I was not working in industrial hygiene for that many years. And it was a little scary. I wasn’t sure how my re-entry into my field would go. But I started looking and a terrific job came along that suited my background perfectly. So I jumped in, went back to full-time work, and it took a little while. I would say the first couple months I felt just a little … I didn’t remember all the terminology and I was a little rusty. But it can be done, ladies—and dads and moms.

How did you come to know about Sigma Xi?

My dad, well both my parents, were scientists. My dad—they’re gone now— but he was a chemical engineer, PhD. My mom was a doctor. My dad worked in chemical engineering research for many years and he had been a member of Sigma Xi through his career. And I came across Sigma Xi’s magazines, American Scientist, and even in junior high and high school I would read the magazine. I just loved it. To this day, I love reading about all the disciplines, the new cutting-edge discoveries and technologies. But it’s the warmest memory of my father because he was a true scientist. He traveled the world for Dow Chemical, trouble-shooting, opening new chemical engineering factories and plants. I’m proud of what he did and I’m proud of his scientific mind. 

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society promotes companionship among researchers so we highlight our members through the Meet Your Fellow Companions series. If your are interested in being interviewed, please contact memberinfo@sigmaxi.org.