Employee Spotlight: Jessica Hey

Meet former ORAU Employee Jessica Hey. Jessica started her career as an ORAU National Student Services Contractor working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Microbiological Researcher in Cincinnati, OH. Recently, Jessica accepted a full-time job as a federal employee at the EPA in Cincinnati. Congratulations Jessica!

As an EPA contractor, Jessica has been working in the National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL) Systems Exposure Division (SED). While there, she learned new molecular research techniques including nuclease extractions, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), and a variety of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods. She was part of a team working on the Residential Environment, Allostatic Load and Diseases (RENALDI) Study, which is evaluating the relationship between community environment and human health impacts. A human’s microbiome—the genetic material of all the microbes (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live on and inside the human body—can influence the onset, progression, & outcomes of disease. Jessica’s role on the RENALDI study team was to profile both the gut and oral microbiome by conducting molecular based experiments. This work is important because it can provide insight into the ways the urban environment contributes to individual health status and vulnerability to diseases.

Jessica’s new role as a federal employee at the EPA will be as a biologist in the National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRML) Water Systems Division (WSD) Watershed Management Branch (WMB). She will be helping scientists track microbial contamination sources in recreational waters by performing quantitative PCR (qPCR). The research is important because it can help in many ways, including preventing illnesses, mitigating the effects of pollution, or stop the contamination from entering water in the first place. Jessica’s goals while serving as a public servant at the EPA are to expand her skill set, grow as a research scientist, and publish her research.


Jessica is a Wright State University alumni. She completed her B.S. in Biological Sciences and her M.S. in Microbiology & Immunology. Since she was a child, Jessica’s favorite subjects have been science and biology. She has an interest in health care, sparked by her mother who is a nurse. Her future plans include pursuing a Ph.D./M.D. “I am drawn to research because I love the concept of discovering & explaining new knowledge to make the world a better place.” What does Jessica like to do when not performing science on behalf of EPA? Her favorite place to get away to is the family lake house on Norris Lake in La Follette, TN. Because Jessica loves water related activities, it’s meaningful to her to contribute to keeping recreational water clean & safe.