OSU grad returns to campus as public health instructor

Public Health Instructor Shelley Su is no stranger to Beaver Nation– she received her undergrad in biochemistry/biophysics and her Ph.D. in biochemical toxicology with a minor in public health at Oregon State. Prior to teaching public health, Shelley held numerous positions, including an analytical chemist at Hewlett-Packard Company and an analytical chemist at the Environmental Protection Agency in Corvallis and as a guest lecturer at Shanghai Medical University in Shanghai, China. She completed her pre-doctoral research with the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at Oregon State and was a post-doctoral NIEHS training grant fellow with the Center for Toxicology and Department of Pharmacology at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison, Wisc. She returned to Oregon State and was employed as a research assistant professor with the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology before joining the College of Public Health and Human Sciences as an instructor in 2004.

shelly-su-headerWhat made you decide to get into this field? 

“I didn’t really get into public health the traditional way. I was a physics major for three years before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry/biophysics and then a PhD in biochemical toxicology. My inspiration to become a toxicologist came after working for an incredible toxicologist at the EPA. She showed me that a good toxicologist really utilizes all the scientific disciplines, including chemistry, biochemistry and biology, and that appealed to me because I was always a science nerd who could never choose between them.”

Why did you choose to work at Oregon State?

“Oregon State is my alma mater. When I was a child my father was a military engineer and we moved around a lot from project to project. So when I came to study at OSU, it really felt like home for the first time. Also, OSU has a terrific reputation in the sciences.  Linus Pauling was an OSU alum. If it was good enough for him, I thought it was good enough for me.”

What is your favorite part about teaching public health?

“I like interacting with students. And because of the classes that I teach I am required   to stay informed on many different areas of environmental health: food safety, the current status of our air and water, hazardous waste issues, governmental regulations, disease causation, etc. This allows me to indulge my interdisciplinary interests.”

What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment in the field of Public Health?

“I don’t know if I have one or ever will have one, but making students realize that their efforts matter, that the lessons they learn here really can make a difference in the world, I feel is important.”

How are you going to change people’s lives with your work?

“I don’t have any visions about ‘changing people’s lives,’ I only hope that when people take my classes, they will learn something new, something that will make them think about the world and how it is possible to make a difference.”

What is the best advice you ever received, and who gave it?

“My Danish grandfather was a true visionary and was always giving me advice. He always told me: 1) If you have to work, work to make yourself happy; 2) Don’t blame others when you don’t get what you want, and 3) Never eat blue food.”

What advice would you like to give to students and young alums?

“Do what makes you happy, and keep a sense of humor. You aren’t any good to anyone if you are miserable.”

What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?

“I used to have a pet chicken.”

What are your favorite activities to do outside of work?

“Whitewater rafting, traveling and baseball.”

 ~ Heather Turner (Synergies)

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