Postdoc Spotlight - Dr. Cassandra Thiel

June, 2016



What is your area of specialization?

I am a sustainability engineer, and I specialize in medicine.  My undergraduate and graduate programs were in Civil Engineering, focused on life cycle assessment and analyzing the sustainability of systems. I ended up working on sustainability issues in medicine after an initial project with an obstetric/gynecologist physician who wanted more data about what she should do to minimize the footprint of her surgical practice. After watching a few surgeries, I was hooked!  There’s so much to do in this field!


What is your current research project?

I currently have two projects. I am analyzing the environmental emissions associated with cataract surgery in the United States and at Aravind Eye Hospital in southern India.  This is a continuation of my Fulbright-Nehru fellowship in 2014-2015.  The other project compares two approaches to small, hand surgery in a variety of metrics, including: waste generation, outcomes, costs, patient experience, and emissions.  We are trying to develop best practices and identify potential changes to medical policies, which will encourage greater environmental and financial sustainability without comprising quality of care.


Tell us about a great experience or opportunity you’ve had in the past year.

I suppose I should write something work-related; however, as a postdoc, one of the best experiences I had this year was moving into my own apartment.  It had been almost two years since I had my own space and had all of my possessions in that space. So once the deposit was in and all of my worldly belongings were gathered from across the country, I felt a deep satisfaction walking around my living room and knowing that it was all mine, and all that I had. Being a postdoc can be very stressful in that you never know where you will be going next!  We have to find the little things in life that we can appreciate and enjoy.


What do you hope the next step in your career path will be?

I hope the next step will be a faculty position, in which I can continue pioneering sustainability in medicine with some of the best colleagues and collaborators in the world! 


If not a scientist, what would you be?

It’s hard to picture a life without science!  I could see myself as an organic farmer, chocolatier, or baker - though I really love to travel and I don’t like waking up too early in the morning…