Profiles of Women of EPA: Nancy Tschirhart
Nancy Tschirhart, Compliance Information Development Specialist
OAR National Vehicle & Fuel Emissions Laboratory
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Where were you born?
I was born and raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
What brought you to EPA?
I started working at EPA as a GS-1 high school student aid—they had a program where you could work for school credits. After I graduated, I took a job as a data transcriber in the lab’s computer room, entering data from vehicle testing. My grandfather, who worked at the VA hospital, was so proud that I was working at EPA. I remember him telling me that this job would get me far, and that I should do whatever it takes to keep working at EPA—which I did! From the computer room, I went to Calibrations and Maintenance, and was working midnights for fourteen years. Around 1995, I applied for a detail in the Chemistry Lab and I’ve been there since. I feel that the job I do here is helping the environment, and I have a hand in making our environment better for future generations.
What type of work do you do at EPA?
I’m a technologist in the Fuels and Chemistry Lab for EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory, testing fuel samples from around the country. I test fuel properties, and manage fuel deliveries, sample inventories and inter-laboratory correlation programs. When I started at EPA, I learned that details matter! Test fuel has to meet CFR requirements, and there are no gray areas. It’s black and white–it has to meet the standards. I also learned the value of lab work done in a regimented, timely fashion. The sulfur measurements we made in the Chem Lab for the 2007 diesel fuel regulations, for example, made a huge difference in the environment. I take special pride in that work.
I get my greatest satisfaction out of sharing my knowledge with new hires. You need to understand the whole process, see all of the details, so things run smoothly. Above all, you have to feel that your job is important.
What is your experience and training in your field?
I have had a lot of different jobs at EPA, working my way up from a GS-1, Step 1! It took a lot of determination to make myself known and prove I could do the work. I’ve had formal training as well as technical training, but I have just taken on more responsibilities over time, become more involved in decision-making, and performed well at each level. I take pride in my work and I value the work that I do.
What message would you like to send other women who are considering college or a career in environmental protection?
First of all, you can do the work just as well as anyone! My advice for someone starting a career at EPA would be to find a passion that you have and just work hard at it. I had support from my family and my supervisors. My supervisor has always been a positive person, letting me know that I can do the next thing, always having confidence in me. For as long as I’ve been here, I still love my job, and I love what I am doing to help the environment.