This summer, Isabelle Lee, a PhD candidate in Pharmacology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, did her part in keeping us safe at the Environmental Protection Agency. Working with the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) at the EPA, Isabelle’s project focused on the thyroid, compiling data on various chemical compounds and presenting it in a way that the government can now use to regulate harmful substances. With over 8,000 chemicals to examine, Isabelle didn’t mind the long nights at the office, and always enjoyed her evening walk home.
What areas of public policy interest you?
I’m mostly interested in environmental health and healthcare in general. Recently, though, after talking to a Penn alum that PPI connected me with, I’ve really gotten interested in energy policy. It’s very interesting, so I’ve begun looking further into that.
What is the first thing you do when you get to the office every morning?
Check my schedule. I don’t have access to my email or schedule outside of the office, so I check that first thing to see if anything has been updated since the day before. After that, I check my email and get myself a cup of tea.
What does a typical day in DC look like for you?
I typically get up between 6:30 and 7am and go for a 30 to 40 minute run. I live in the Adams Morgan neighborhood and there’s a really nice park nearby that’s great to run in. I take the metro into work and get there by 9 am. After checking my schedule and email, I’ll get to work on my project. If I have any meetings or events in the morning, I’ll attend those. Lunch is typically between 1 and 2pm. In the afternoons, I’ll continue working on the project, and will meet with my project manager a few times a week to discuss the progress. I like working late, so I’ll stay at the office until 6 or 7pm. I like walking, so I don’t take the train home. It’s about a 45 minute walk back to Adams Morgan, and I take a different street every day to experience more of DC.
Have there been any surprises regarding living and working as an intern in DC?
I was really shocked by just how young the city is. I had visited relatives here before and didn’t notice, but DC is full of young people and young families. It’s very vibrant. At the PPI donor dinner, one of the speakers was joking that DC and Silicon Valley are the only areas in the country run by 30 year olds, and that’s definitely true here.
Name one object that you brought with you to DC that reflects your personality.
I love to run, so I’d have to say my running sneakers. I run about six times a week. I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I find that running really helps manage the symptoms. It’s a huge part of my life.
In 30 years, what will you remember about living and working in DC?
I think I’ll remember how this summer has given me a deeper understanding of what I want to do in the future. I’m in grad school right now, so initially, the thought after graduating is academia or the medical industry, but after talking to alumni and other people in DC, I’ve found that there are a lot of opportunities for people who might not have considered working here before. It’s exciting to see how many opportunities really are truly available to me.