Laboratory Director Lena Cox Shares Career Path

Member Value Report

Lena Cox, Goleta Sanitary District

Laboratory Director Lena Cox holds a Grade IV Laboratory Analyst Certification and was recently awarded the Crystal Crucible award from the CWEA Laboratory Committee. Lena also holds a CWEA Biosolids Land Application Management certification.  

Today, she is with the Goleta Sanitary District where she supervises and directs all activities of the wastewater laboratory. She performs complex chemical, biological and physical analysis of wastewater every day. To get the full picture of Lena’s career path, read on. 

How did you get into this profession?  

I had great math and chemistry teachers in high school. So it initially started with them sparking my interests in the subject. My sister-in-law worked at an agricultural laboratory and helped me get a job there after I graduated high school.  

I loved working in the laboratory and pursued science courses in college.  

My degree is from Humboldt State University in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphasis in Botany, Soil Science and Environmental Ethics. 

As the Quality Assurance Officer in a commercial environmental laboratory, my desire to perform bench work in the laboratory lead me to move to a wastewater treatment plant and drinking water plant laboratory in the City of Eureka. I knew I found the right profession for myself while working in and learning about the public health importance of the wastewater and drinking water industry. 

How long have you been involved with CWEA? 

I became involved in CWEA soon after working for the City of Eureka around 2000. I am fortunate to currently work for an agency that supports involvement in CWEA at the Goleta Sanitary District. I encourage my staff to earn their CWEA certification because it fosters learning more about laboratory practices beyond what we do in our lab on a daily basis. It also demonstrates motivation in professional development and is something that I look for when recruiting for new staff members. 

What is the biggest value you get from being a CWEA member? 
The biggest value for me is learning about new technologies and regulation requirements from the Annual Conference and local workshops put on by our section. 

Being a laboratory manager, do you have concerns about the new TNI standards?
The TNI standards are good for legal defensibility of lab results but are impactful on the workload in the laboratory. A lot of time is currently being dedicated to reviewing and developing procedures to be compliant with the TNI standard. Once all of the procedures are in place it will be an ongoing effort to maintain the required documentation.  

Would you recommend this profession to others?  

I have been involved in the environmental laboratory industry since I graduated from college in 1998. I would definitely recommend wastewater and drinking water professions to others because it is a secure and rewarding industry to work in. I also believe it is advantageous to have a college degree in a science field. Understanding the fundamentals of quality assurance and quality control is essential. Earning a laboratory analyst certification and learning from coworkers including operators is very valuable. 

Know someone deserving of a Crystal Crucible award? Nominate them before January 11, 2019!

Submit nomination here.

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