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CDC/ONDIEH/NCEH/CCB and Other Acronyms

For a public health oriented place, who knew that the CDC’s bathrooms are…not that great?

Or maybe it’s just that my office is in an older building, but still.

This summer, I’m working at the CDC, which is a US government organization focused on public health. Fortunately, it’s located in my hometown so I get to save money on rent.


(I do apologize that this post has fewer pictures than normal- I’m not allowed to take pictures on the CDC campus because of security and such.)

Contrary to popular belief, the CDC doesn’t ONLY stand for Centers for Disease Control. Its full name is actually the Centers for Disease Control AND PREVENTION. One thing that I’ve noticed while working for the government is that there are so many acronyms. In my ~official~ CDC email, there’s a whole bunch of acronyms listed after my name, like ONDIEH and NCEH.

Here’s the breakdown of relevant acronyms, listed in order of specificity:

  1. CDC: you know this already; I’m not going to repeat myself
  2. ONDIEH: Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury, and Environmental Health (the Center I work at, which is nested within the CDC)
  3. NCEH: National Center for Environmental Health (listed within ONDIEH)
  4. DLS: Division of Laboratory Science (where all the super cool science is done within the NCEH)
  5. CCB: Clinical Chemistry Branch (the branch of the DLS that I work in)
  6. LRL: Lipid Reference Laboratory (the specific lab in the CCB that I work in)

So far, I’ve been working on different things, including:

  • Determining total cholesterol levels using gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (using a $200,000 machine)
  • Packing serum boxes worth $10,000(!!!)
  • Fiddling with ultra-expensive Tecan machines (worth $300k-400k)
  • Implementing a new temperature probe system for the lab freezers (all the equipment together is worth $3,000)

Sometimes I’m confused as to why the government even lets me TOUCH some of the equipment, let alone WORK with them. Since, uh, these machines are dangerously expensive.

But I’m really enjoying the experience. When I first got here, I thought I was way in over my head because everyone around me is an amazing chemist, while I’m a hunky-dory still-in-college biomedical engineer. But over the past few weeks, I’ve come to an understanding about a couple things here:

  1. No one actually knows what they’re doing at every point in time, so I’m not alone (whew!). I learned this from working with the other chemists as we were creating a script for the Tecan. Of the three of us, I had the most experience programming, so I contributed a lot (yay!).
  2. Everyone’s super chill. The person you sit next to at lunch might have an MD, 2 PhDs, and a Master’s, but you wouldn’t know that just from meeting them, since they’re so casual and open. You feel like you’re talking to a new friend, then you later find out that they’d won some major research awards, no big deal.
  3. The best part about the job is that there’s SO MANY good food places near the CDC! All the food below can be found less than 2 miles from the CDC.

But yeah, life’s pretty great right now this summer (aside from the fact that I’m also studying for the MCAT rip rip more on this in a future post). There’s cool things I’m doing at work, good food all the time, AND I get to see my dog every day!

This is the best dog in the world, Henry!

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