Thomas Gerding is a 2017 graduate of NKU's Environmental Science Program. He has a Master's of Public Health from Eastern Kentucky University and pursuing a doctorate at the University of Cincinnati.
A study conducted during the pandemic found that individuals required to work from home faced multiple obstacles that could affect their health, including poor lighting and inadequate support from their chairs.
One of the most common problems involved the use of laptop computers and
monitors that weren't at eye level. This increased the risk of neck
Thomas Gerding, an Environmental Science major at NKU (Class of 2017) is well on his way to making a major impact on public health even before finishing his PhD at the University of Cincinnati.
In the last few months, Gerding has been the first author and a co-author on two important scientific studies. While working on his Master’s in Public Health at Eastern Kentucky University, he helped the Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness investigate how well local pools and spas were doing with their disinfection protocols.
The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Health, found that both indoor and outdoor hotel pools had a significantly higher risk of not meeting established disinfection levels. Overall, more than 89% of pools of spas did meet the criteria.
The major problems found included incorrect levels of disinfectants and pH, which Gerding says could result in harmful chemical exposures or result in the growth of pathogenic organisms. The study authors noted that proper disinfection is important, because swimming is one of the most popular recreational activities in the United States with more than 7.4 million pools nationwide.
Currently completing his doctorate in Environmental and Industrial Hygiene at the University of Cincinnati, Gerding found himself working on a pandemic-related project involving health and safety in the rapid shift to work-from-home. In collaboration with Dr. Kermit Davis, UC alumna Dr. Susan Kotowski and three others, the team identified multiple ergonomic and safety concerns in home offices.
These included poor positioning of laptop monitors leading to eye and neck strain, using inappropriate chairs such as dining chairs that could increase the risk of arm and back stress, and inadequate lighting for the workspace.
To address the need for ergonomically sound home offices, the authors made a number of recommendations including using a pillow to raise a chair’s seat height if it’s not financially feasible to invest in a well-designed office chair. They also recommend using an external keyboard and mouse and raising laptops and monitors to eye level.
The report was published in the journal Ergonomics in Design. Gerding credits NKU’s Department of Biological Sciences and the ENV program with his fast-track successes.
“NKU really laid the groundwork for me to have a strong science background and was where I first developed a passion for preventing environmental and safety related hazards.”
Gerding also offered some advice to current NKU students interested in improving their chances for career success. “To date, I've had 5 internships, not including being a graduate assistant at EKU and UC, and I always highly recommend
participating in as many internship opportunities as possible. Not only is it a great way to build your resume, but it really helps you decide which avenue you'd like to take your career following graduation.”