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Rita B. Leahy Career Series

Rita B Leahy Lectures logo

During 2019-2020, the first annual Rita B. Leahy Career Series will bring current doctoral students and Maryland alumni together to meet and explore career opportunities for PhDs.  Two sessions will take place each semester. 


Careers for PhDs in the Federal Government 
Wednesday, 4/8/20, 4:30-6:00 PM

Virtual Event via Zoom: Register Now

There are plenty of available options for those with PhDs in one of the many departments, agencies, and research labs of the federal government in and outside of Washington, DC. PhDs find opportunities at the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Dept of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and Department of Education, just to name a few of the many organizations under the federal umbrella. 


Karen Eisenreigh, PhD   

Karen Eisenreich, PhD, Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences (MEES), Toxicologist, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) of the EPA

Dr. Eisenreich is a supervisory toxicologist in the Risk Assessment Division (RAD) of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) of the EPA. She oversees staff of 17 interdisciplinary scientists and leads the development of chemical risk assessments under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA). Dr. Eisenreich also serves as the management liaison to RAD’s Environmental Hazard Assessment Technical Team leading the team to develop environmental hazard and risk assessment methodologies, including the development of relevant tools and models. Prior to joining the EPA, Dr. Eisenreich completed her B.A. in biology and environmental studies at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN followed by completion of her M.S. in environmental toxicology at Clemson University. After completing her master’s, Dr. Eisenreich conducted research on the effects of an array of contaminants on bird species as a biological science technician at USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland. She then received her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in the MEES Program where she studied the impacts of PCBs and flame retardants on embryonic, hatchling and juvenile turtles. In general, Dr. Eisenreich has been interested in how persistent and bioaccumulative compounds can impact the physiology, growth and development of long-lived species.

Luc Hebou, PhD    

Luc Hebou, PhD, Bioengineering, 2010, Environmental Protection SpecialistUSDA-APHIS

 Dr. Hebou studied and obtained a B.S. Engineering in Forestry and Wildlife Management at the University of Dschang, School of Agronomy (Cameroon) in 1994. After a two-year service at the Cameroon Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (1994-1996) Dr. Hebou moved to Belgium, where he pursued graduate studies and earned a M.S Degree in Conservation Biology at the University of Liege, Institute of Zoology (Belgium). At the U.S Department of Agriculture where he currently works, Dr. Hebou develops Decision Support Systems using Geographic Information System (GIS) and related Decision Tree models which help manage agricultural pests and invasive species. As a primary GIS resource person, he provides expert analyses of agricultural and natural resources issues as they relate to existing and proposed policies and programs. He also provides environmental policy and regulatory expertise, as well as subject matter knowledge to APHIS program Managers and USDA Officials including the Office of General Council and USDA Secretary.


Mona Mirzaei, PhD   

 Mona Mirzaei, PhD Mechanical Engineering, 2018, Process Engineer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center 


Mona Mirzaei received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic), Tehran, Iran, in 2008 and 2010, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA, in 2018.  She was a Postdoctral Researcher at the Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada, and a Guest Researcher at the National Institute of Standard and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD in 2019.  She joined Detector System Branch at Nasa Goddard in April 2019 as a process engineer to support fabricating spectrometers and MKIDs in the various projects.  Her research interests include modeling, design, fabrication, and characterization of MEMS devices and developing micro and nanofabrication processes.


 Neil Mansharamani, PhD 

 Neil Mansharamani, PhDCommunication, 2014, Writer, U.S. Department of Transportation 

Dr. Neil H. Mansharamani has been a speechwriter at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since 2005. He has prepared written remarks and visual presentations for the FAA Administrator, Deputy Administrator, Chief Operating Officer and many other senior executives. Neil served as a White House intern, worked on presidential campaigns, and was the recipient of numerous national awards in public speaking. Neil is a public speaker. He has made numerous presentations at professional conferences. He has also spoken to undergraduate students about the benefits of networking, mentoring and internships, and to Washington DC high school students about the importance of developing effective communication skills.


About Dr. Rita B. Leahy

Photograph of Rita B. LeahyRita Leahy received her PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland in 1989. She is very grateful for her education at Maryland because it put her in touch with organizations and people who had a big impact on her life and career. Dr. Leahy feels it is very important for Ph.D. students to understand the different career options that are available to them and to build a professional network. In 2018, Dr. Leahy created a fund in the Graduate School to support the professional development of doctoral students and the creation of an annual speaker series featuring UMD alumni working in exciting and meaningful careers outside of the academy. 

Dr. Leahy’s own career path is a testimony to the power of networking - developing and maintaining connections with individuals.  These connections along with an unstoppable spirit of openness took her career in directions she never could have predicted. She believes that success in life is “finding something that you love to do and finding someone willing to pay you to do it.”  According to Dr. Leahy, success is where preparation and opportunity meet.