Jenny Houlroyd Earns Doctor of Public Health Degree

 

Jenny Houlroyd, CIH, MSPH, DrPH

Jenny Houlroyd, an occupational health group manager for the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) Program, successfully defended her dissertation in March 2024 to complete a doctorate in public health (DrPH) from the University of Georgia. Her degree is from the College of Public Health in public health policy and management. Graduation is scheduled for May 10. The SHES program is part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Prior to joining Georgia Tech in 2005, Houlroyd earned a dual master of science in public health (MSPH) from Emory University, focusing on epidemiology and environmental and occupational health. As a certified industrial hygienist with the OSHA 21(d) Consultation Program, she helps small Georgia businesses ensure that workplaces are hazard-free and workers are protected from potential health threats.

She also serves as faculty for the OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) at Georgia Tech and for the professional master’s in Occupational Safety and Health program for the School of Building Construction within the College of Design.

“My dissertation was on respiratory protection,” said Houlroyd. “In health and safety, we follow a hierarchy of controls, and the last layer of defense is personal protective equipment (PPE).”

Respiratory safety ranks consistently among the top ten concerns of OSHA, and Houlroyd conducted a qualitative study focusing on the manufacturing sector. Through the process of exploring elements that might contribute to a worker’s reluctance to wear PPE, she developed what she calls the FACT model, which tracks fit, acceptance of risk, comfort, and type of respirator.

Houlroyd views her doctor of public health degree as an achievement that not only enhances her own skill set but also benefits colleagues and contributes to the greater good. “I’m really hoping that it helps my entire team open doors, to apply for more competitive grants and make connections with other research groups,” she said. “I really see it as essential for our team to have this kind of expertise in-house.”

Those doors are already opening. On May 16, Houlroyd is attending the conference Preventing Silicosis – An Ancient Disease in Modern Times: Silicosis Caused by Artificial Stone in the U.S., hosted by the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at University of California, Los Angeles, where she has been invited to speak on exposure and control technologies. “My doctoral program includes leadership training, and it gave me the confidence to speak up about issues that are important to me,” she said.

“At the Enterprise Innovation Institute, we are committed to making workplaces healthier and safer,” Houlroyd added. “We want people to go home from work to their families in the same or better shape than when they left. My dad got sick with brain cancer from exposure on the job; he died two years ago. I really do see it as a personal mission. We are saving lives.”

I-Corps South trains Irish researchers in entrepreneurship workshop

I-Corps South Program Manager Melissa Heffner leads a customer discovery workshop with a group of Irish researchers and entrepreneurs. (Photo by: Sara Henderson)

I-Corps South program team members recently traveled to the Republic of Ireland as part of a two-day training curriculum to prepare 24 Irish teams for a year-long program focused on supporting ideas and technologies that address societal challenges.

 

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) invited the I-Corps South team to Dublin to explain how to develop a mission model and how to engage in meaningful and objective customer discovery. It’s the second consecutive year that SFI has invited the I-Corps South staff to lead this workshop.

 

A program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, I-Corps South is a node of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovation Corps initiative.

 

The NSF’s I-Corps program — a boot camp that shows what it’s like to form a startup — helps NSF-funded researchers learn how to commercialize their findings and determine if a market actually exists for what they developed.

 

I-Corps South provides evidence-based entrepreneurship education and support to commercialize startups, as well as training, resources, and an active network to regional research universities across the Southeast and the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico.

 

“SFI is currently working to build out its evidenced-based entrepreneurship programming,” said Sara Henderson, I-Corps South program designer. “They are basing their programs on the lean startup methodology and sought out our team to help them train their teams, given our experience in teaching the methodology to students and faculty across the Southeast and at NSF I-Corps Teams Cohorts.”

 

I-Corps South Executive Director Keith McGreggor explains the loss aversion bias theory and how it applies to entrepreneurs. (Photo by: Sara Henderson)

The I-Corps South team — Executive Director Keith McGreggor, Program Manager Melissa Heffner, and Henderson — worked with the Irish teams, which were all focused on various aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) or zero emissions for societal good.

 

Among some of the project ideas:

  • AI for fetal wellbeing
  • Non-surgical treatment for lung cancer using AI
  • Creating a carbon-neutral resilient dairy farm
  • Hybrid bio-solar reactors for wastewater treatment and carbon dioxide recycling

 

“It was a great experience and the teams were all focused on projects that have potential to effect positive societal change,” Henderson said.

 

In addition to the Mission Model Canvas and stakeholder discovery training they received from I-Corps South, the Irish teams also received coaching on the Theory of Change from Social Innovation Fund Ireland.

 

Sara Henderson, I-Corps South program designer, discusses the service blueprint methodology, a model for using operational efficiency to diagnose problems. (Photo by: Melissa Heffner)

“Several of the teams will be filtered out at the end of March after the first phase of the program, which is focused on them conducting rapid stakeholder and beneficiary research,” Henderson said. “The remaining teams will advance to the next phase and will support their projects with additional research and work on their solutions through the end of 2020.”

 

SFI and NSF have an agreement in place allowing SFI to send teams to the I-Corps Teams program.

 

In the last couple of years, SFI has leveraged Georgia Tech for I-Corps training for their teams and Tech has led similar sessions for the Centers for Disease Control. The government of Mexico in 2018, through its National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT), sent more than a dozen university-based instructors to Tech to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and how to build and maintain such programs at their schools.

National Science Foundation awards Georgia Institute of Technology $500,000 grant to further Institute’s commercialization efforts

Funding to support I-Corps Sites teams formed from Georgia Tech research.

Free headshot
Paul Freet is VentureLab’s NSF I-Corps instructor.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named the Georgia Institute of Technology an Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Site — and awarded it a $500,000 grant to help Institute-based research teams identify and interview target customer audiences.

 

The grant, spread over five years, will be managed by Tech’s VentureLab program. VentureLab is Georgia Tech’s incubator that works with Institute faculty, staff, and students to evaluate their research and help them create startups based on those findings.

 

I-Corps Sites enable academic institutions to catalyze teams whose technology concepts are likely candidates for commercialization. It also provides infrastructure, advice, resources, networking opportunities, training, and funding to help researchers move from idea to commercialization.

 

At Georgia Tech, the I-Corps Sites grant will support up to 150 research teams — comprised of Institute students, faculty, researchers, or staff — in their efforts to meet with and interview potential customers, said Paul Freet, VentureLab’s NSF I-Corps instructor.

 

“A key part of the commercialization process is learning from customers— what I-Corps calls customer discovery,” Freet said. “We ask our research teams to search for evidence of product-market-fit and learn if there is a market for the commercialization of their research.”

 

All I-Corps Sites teams are expected to conduct 20 customer interviews. To help teams accomplish that goal, Georgia Tech teams accepted into the program will be reimbursed with up to $3,000 for travel to visit customers or attend trade shows.

 

Teams that complete the I-Corps Sites program also will have access to follow-on $50,000 I-Corps Team grants. To date, Georgia Tech researchers have received more than 50 I-Corps Team grants.

 

“The I-Corps program has been instrumental in helping launch a startup based on my research into advanced materials,” said Krista Walton, professor and Robert “Bud” Moeller Faculty Fellow in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. “Early feedback from potential customers was critical in setting the direction of our startup. The I-Corps Sites grant will help get more researchers out of the lab and in front of customers.”

 

About VentureLab:

Created in 2001 and ranked as the No. 2 university startup incubator in the world, VentureLab is the Georgia Institute of Technology’s incubator whose mission is to collaborate with faculty, staff, and students to create startups based on Tech research. Using evidence-based entrepreneurship, VentureLab —a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Tech’s chief economic development arm — has supported the launch of more than 300 startups. Combined, those startups have raised more than $1.5 billion in investments. For more information, visit venturelab.gatech.edu.