PHutures – 100 Alumni Voices »

Brian Harmon

“There’s always an opportunity to improve. It doesn’t matter how good you are at something, you can always improve and be better.”

Bloomberg School of Public Health

Environmental Health and Engineering, PhD 2017

Research Staff Member at Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA); Lieutenant Colonel at U.S. Army Reserve

Brian‘s Podcast Episode

In this episode, we discuss Brian’s unexpected journey from being an aspiring golf course superintendent to studying environmental chemistry, joining the U.S. Army Reserves, pursuing a doctorate in environmental health and engineering, and working in public health preparedness at the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), his advocacy work as the co-founder and chair of a military and veteran employee resource group at IDA, and his take on the importance of being flexible, learning from your mistakes, and always trying to improve.

Learn More About Brian‘s Story

I had just begun to seriously consider pursuing a doctorate focusing on public health preparedness and epidemiology when I was deployed to Iraq in 2007. I began looking into options after returning home from deployment, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health kept coming up as the best option. I applied in 2008, and after a quick deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, I enrolled after coming off active duty the summer of 2010. I had no idea what I was going to encounter, but I knew I could handle it. I also knew it was going to challenge me.

I finished my PhD in Environmental Health and Engineering in 2017 (pictured here with my son). It wasn’t always the smoothest road from 2010 to 2017. I was called to active duty for 24 months in 2012. This meant I had to take a leave of absence from my program between 2012 and 2014. My department and Johns Hopkins were accommodating and understanding of my situation. When I returned from my leave of absence, I began working out of the labs at the Applied Physics Laboratory from 2015 to 2017. The PhD ended up being very different than I’d anticipated it would be, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity and relationships I built! Such a wonderful part of my life!