Katelyn Hardy recalls reading, “The Hot Zone” — a book that explores the dead­li­ness of the Ebola virus — when she was 14 and fan­ta­sizing about one day working with such dan­gerous viruses. It’s a dream the North­eastern stu­dent was able to ful­fill on co-​​op at the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) in Atlanta.

Hardy said she selected North­eastern for the vast expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able to stu­dents, already hoping to work for the CDC. That desire grew stronger after she took an honors sem­inar, “Global Polit­ical Ecology,” taught by Daniel Faber, a pro­fessor in soci­ology and director of the North­eastern Envi­ron­mental Jus­tice Research Col­lab­o­ra­tive. The sem­inar broad­ened her under­standing of the CDC’s role in pro­tecting public health — such as researching the envi­ron­mental haz­ards of every­thing from lead paint and poor air quality to nat­ural disasters.

Hardy, a chem­istry major who enters her junior year in the fall, ulti­mately spent two co-​​ops at the CDC’s National Center for Envi­ron­mental Health. From Jan­uary to August 2009, she helped expand the CDC’s work in nat­ural dis­aster response. Hardy edited pre­sen­ta­tions and facil­i­tated col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity and Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency on a project to develop an envi­ron­mental health– training course for local governments.

As rewarding as that expe­ri­ence was, Hardy said she real­ized her true calling during her second CDC co-​​op from Jan­uary to June 2010, working in the center’s emer­gency response and air tox­i­cants branch.

Hardy gained sub­stan­tial expe­ri­ence in the chem­ical ter­rorism methods devel­op­ment lab, ana­lyzing dan­gerous nerve agents often used in terror attacks. Mem­o­rably, she helped to auto­mate a manual pro­gram of testing clin­ical sam­ples for the pres­ence of five nerve agents, which increased the lab’s productivity.

Hardy said she enjoyed the autonomy of working in the lab, which helped rein­force her desire to work in lab set­tings in her career. She also found the daily chal­lenges of lab work extremely rewarding.

You kind of solve puz­zles all day, and I like that.”