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EPA Disaster Waste Management Social Science Research Fellowship

*Applications may be reviewed on a rolling-basis and this posting could close before the deadline. Click here for information about the selection process.
EPA Office/Lab and Location: A research opportunity is available at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response (CESER), Homeland Security Materials Management Division (HSMMD) located in Washington, DC.
Within the HSMMD, the Systems Tools and Materials Management Branch (STMMB) conducts environmental social science research on community resilience to natural and anthropogenic disasters, including homeland security incidents. It investigates how social factors affect environmental risks & environmental work during disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. “Social factors” include stakeholder relationships, culture, risk perception, economics, and power dynamics, among others. Areas of inquiry are: social considerations in disaster waste and debris, management, including understanding hazardous waste management decision contexts; measures of environmental and community resilience; risk communication with households and families about safely remediating flooded homes; and environmental cleanup processes and outcomes, including remediation, removal, and decontamination. Research products include scientific manuscripts, tools, databases, models, which are intended to advance scientific thinking and help solve environmental problems related to disasters and homeland security incidents.
Research Project: This research project will address the management of disaster waste and debris. It will entail social science research and analysis of the socioeconomic, cultural, institutional, and other social factors that may affect disaster waste management decisions and outcomes. The research will analyze social scientific literature and case studies of recent disasters, environmental emergencies, and homeland security incidents. Specific topics to be investigated may include risk perception, stigma, environmental justice, and risk communication.
Learning Objectives: This appointment will enhance the research participant’s ability to conduct applied social science research to help solve environmental problems. Under the guidance of the mentor, the research participant may gain experience in this area by:
  • Collaborating with an interdisciplinary team.
  • Contributing to the development and application of social theories about resilience, coupled human-natural systems, and culture through the use of social science research methods (e.g. comparative case studies, literature reviews, modeling, GIS, indicators, interviews, secondary data, data synthesis, focus groups, surveys).
  • Using human-centered design approaches to assess whether products are applicable to disaster decision contexts.
  • Communicating environmental social science to diverse audiences (e.g. through articles, reports, conference poster and presentations).
  • Exposure to emerging research areas at the intersection of community resilience, disasters and homeland security, and environmental aspects of disasters (e.g. waste management, indoor air quality, remediation).
The research participant will have the latitude to exercise independent initiative, innovation, and judgment in her/his research. The research participant may have the opportunity to interact with EPA research partners in other federal agencies, state and local government, academia, and community stakeholders. The research participant may also have the opportunity to attend technical meetings and workshops to present research.
Mentor(s): The mentor for this opportunity is Keely Maxwell ( If you have questions about the nature of the research please contact the mentor(s).
Anticipated Appointment Start Date: October 2020. All start dates are flexible and vary depending on numerous factors. Click here for detailed information about start dates.
Appointment Length: The appointment will initially be for one year and may be renewed three to four additional years upon EPA recommendation and subject to availability of funding.
Level of Participation: The appointment is full-time.
Participant Stipend: The participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience. A travel/training allowance will also be provided. Click here for detailed information about full-time stipends.
EPA Security Clearance: Completion of a successful background investigation by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is required for an applicant to be on-boarded at EPA.
ORISE Information: This program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and EPA. Participants do not become employees of EPA, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. Health insurance can be obtained through ORISE.
Questions: Please see the FAQ section of our website. After reading, if you have additional questions about the application process please email and include the reference code for this opportunity.