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Science Notebook: Indoor Air Quality

Interview with Christopher Patkowski

Welcome to Scientist Showcase, a regular feature of EPA’s Science Notebook. In this interview, EPA’s Indoor Environments Division Communication Specialist Kelly Hunt talks with EPA Engineer Christopher Patkowski.

KH = Kelly Hunt (EPA, Communications Specialist)
CP = Christopher Patkowski (EPA, Engineer)

KH: Tell me about your science or education background. What kind of scientist are you?
CP: I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Poland. So, I am a mechanical engineer.

KH: And what do you do here at EPA?
CP: I am the Scientific Analysis Team leader and I work on air cleaner devices – HVAC.

KH: So with your background, how did you end up at EPA?
CP: I worked for a defense contractor for the U.S. Navy and I saw a posting on the Web site for a mechanical engineer position at EPA with HVAC background. I was looking because of political and global change.

KH: Can you give me a brief description of the most exciting project you’ve worked on at EPA?
CP: It was writing documents, including literature research, scientific analyses on new technology for residential air cleaning devices. And working with Laureen (Burton) on BLOC-IED (Baseline Levels of Organic Compounds – Indoor Environments Database).

CP: Because it was software development. I like software development.

KH: That makes sense, since you’re a mechanical engineer. Why is it unique?
CP: This is a database and can be used as a reference and can be useful for the general public - problem building investigation.

KH: Changing gears a bit away from work, what’s your favorite scientific discovery and why?
CP: The computer mouse. And the theory of relativity by Einstein.

KH: The mouse? Explain, please.
CP: It’s so simple; so common. And we don’t think of how much operation it does.

KH: True. You don’t fully appreciate your mouse until it stops working or until someone in your office thinks it’s funny to hide it. Okay, and why the theory of relativity?
CP: The theory is still confusing for many people. It’s difficult to explain in plain language, but it lets us see the cosmic world from a different perspective. Another one is hypertext development. Scientists developed it and it led to development of Web pages.

KH: On the topic of science fun, what’s your favorite science word and why?
CP: Ever?

KH: Yep, of all time.
CP: Einstein. It’s the name. He developed many theories and was a very controversial person; very funny. He brought a lot to science.

KH: What’s the most oddball or random job you’ve ever done?
CP: Babysitter. For three months when I was 36 years old. It was my very first job in America.

KH: Wow. I bet you have all kinds of stories. Work aside, what do you do for fun? Any hobbies?
CP: Hobbies? Cycling, skiing, photography and dancing.

KH: What type of dancing?
CP: Ballroom dancing.

KH: You keep surprising me, Chris. I’ve heard stories around the office about your cycling adventures. It sounds so exciting and like something you are really passionate about. How did you get involved in cycling?
CP:  I did cycling professionally in Poland since I was a kid - seven years old. In the United States, I do it just for fun. I do it to challenge myself.

KH: It’s not everyday you get to talk to a former professional cyclist from Poland who used to babysit upon coming to the states. You are definitely interesting. Only a few more questions and they’re not on science. MP3s or vinyl?
CP: Digital.

KH: PC or Mac?

KH: Last question: chocolate or vanilla?
CP: For ice cream - vanilla. Of course.  


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