Have You Met…Michelle Rooker?

Have You Met Michelle Rooker, Operations Team Lead in the Department of Environment, Health and Safety in Risk Management Services?

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Have You Met Michelle Rooker, Operations Team Lead in the Department of Environment, Health and Safety in Risk Management Services? Spend a few minutes getting to know her a little better.

What is your role on the Public Health Response Team (PHRT) in its response to COVID-19?

I have been involved since February as the Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) representative on the PHRT. Because a lot of the work I do here at EHS is supporting research, I was put onto the Research Impact Team. Now that Rob Monro has moved to the Service Excellence Transformation team, I’ve taken on the role of co-chair of the Research Impact Team, and am a member of the Fall Planning Oversight committee. My main focus has been the impact of COVID-19 on research, first in the ramp down of research on campus in March, now helping to support research as it returns to campus. My role changes as quickly as the situation does.

How does this role overlap with your regular EHS role?

As the Operations Team Lead we do a lot of the research safety certifications and inspections. My day job is often working with researchers and research labs, and I’m also in charge of the hazardous waste facility on campus. My team takes a ‘customer service’ focused look at campus. Now, there is a whole COVID-19 support role in addition to the greater university perspective. We’ve even shifted into things like making hand sanitizer.

What is something happening behind the scenes of COVID-19 response that the general public might not know about?

I think people would be surprised by the amount of work that is going on and how many different groups are meeting and really talking through the decisions that seem to be made really quickly. It has been very collegial. There are good discussions and conversations and everyone is interested in what is the best decision for the university and the health and safety of our students and staff — and that has been the overarching principle of everything that the PHRT has done. For the public good!

What is your first U of A memory?

I started at the U of A as an undergraduate student in 1990 when telephone registration had just been introduced. I remember walking into the Butterdome and trying to find my way around campus just like every other first year undergraduate. I had moved here from small town Alberta, and it felt like a huge place.

What are three words you would use to describe your U of A experience?

Inspiring, challenging, and uplifting. In my day job I get to see the breadth of research that happens here and how many things are going on at the university and it is truly inspiring. One of the best parts of my job is talking to researchers about their work. It’s also inspiring to see how we work through challenges. And the inspiration of the learning and research that goes on here, is phenomenal.

What is your go-to snack or drink while working at home?

Coffee. Always. Any time. My daughter has been doing a lot of baking during the pandemic, so I’ve been eating a lot of cookies and homemade cinnamon buns.

If you could enroll in any course or program, what would it be?

I think Timothy Caulfield’s work in ethics and science is fascinating, so I would like to take one of the courses that he teaches. My background is in science and research, so it would be interesting to move into the field of translating scientific work to the public. Through this pandemic, it’s been fascinating to me to see how information has been translated for the public.

What was the most important part of your home office setup?

Being able to shut the door. I have two teenagers at home and they love photobombing my video meetings.

What is one thing your coworkers do not know about you?

We’re a pretty close office so they know just about everything. I’m secretly starting to enjoy Marvel movies. We have a big Marvel fanbase in our office and my daughter is also a Marvel fan. She’s been making me watch them through the pandemic and they’re not half bad.

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About Michelle
Michelle graduated from the U of A with a Bachelor of Science in Genetics in 1994. After working as a lab manager in the Departments of Medical Microbiology and Lab Medicine and Pathology, she joined the Department of Environment, Health and Safety in 2008.