Andrew Karam Biography


I have been working with radiation and radioactivity since 1981, when I enlisted in the Navy as a nuclear machinists mate. I spent over a year in Orlando Florida, working first with the Naval Alcohol Safety Action Program and then spending 6 months as a student in the Naval Nuclear Power School (graduating in Class 82-06). This was followed by another 6 months as a student at the Nuclear Prototype Training Unit in Saratoga Springs New York, where I qualified as a Mechanical Operator at the MARF reactor prototype. I was picked up as a staff instructor and operator, spending the next 2 years or so teaching others the care and feeding of an operational nuclear propulsion plant. I finished my time at the prototype plant with a final 6 weeks of chemistry and radiological controls training, which gave me a further designation - Engineering Laboratory Technician (ELT). My final stop in the Navy was 3 ½ years as an ELT on the nuclear fast-attack submarine, Plunger (SSN 595). While onboard Plunger, I stood any of several watches in the engineering spaces as well as serving as our periscope photographer. I wrote of these experiences in the book Rig Ship for Ultra Quiet, now (unfortunately) out of print. I left the Navy as a first-class petty officer, and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer in the Reserves.

After leaving the Navy, I returned to school at the Ohio State University. Over the next few years, I completed an undergraduate degree in Geological Sciences while working as a health physicist - first for the university, and later for the State of Ohio's Department of Health. Here, I worked on issues related to radioactively contaminated sites, including Ohio's Department of Energy sites, as well as responding to radiological emergencies.

After a few years, I took a position as Manager of Radiological Services with a now-defunct environmental consulting and remediation firm. Although I worked on some geological and geotechnical projects, I was primarily involved in projects at two uranium enrichment plants, managing a large radium remediation project, and investigations at a variety of potentially contaminated sites. At the same time, I began work on my MS in Geological Sciences (again at Ohio State) and became board-certified in Health Physics. When the consulting firm went out of business, I worked for a year as a Graduate Research Assistant at Ohio State, and for another few years as a Health Physicist with Ohio State University.

In 1998 I graduated with my MS degree, after which I accepted the position of Radiation Safety Officer at the University of Rochester. In this position, I was able to learn a great deal about medical health physics as well as the practicalities of managing a large radiation safety program (over 1500 radiation workers and nearly 200 research laboratories - plus four major medical departments and a large laser fusion research facility). During this time, I also served on the Panel of Examiners for Part II of the health physics certification exam, served on the Health Physics Society's Board of Directors, and administered the Academic and Medical Radiation Safety Officers e-mail list server. I also became involved in the HPS Radiation Safety Without Borders program and visited several nations with the International Atomic Energy Agency. And, in a somewhat different area, I am also involved with a National Academies of Science subcommittee that is looking at the effects of the battlefield use of depleted uranium.

Following the September 11 attacks, I began working on matters related to radiological and nuclear terrorism - initially looking at the risks from various types of attacks and, currently, working to help emergency and medical responders to react to one of these attacks. To that end, I have written a number of papers and book chapters, fact sheets, and training manuals on various aspects of radiological and nuclear terrorism, as well as serving on committees for the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Along with all of this, I have done a lot of work explaining radiological matters to the general public and the media - helping them understand more about the health effects of radiation. For more details, you can take a look at my CV.

In addition to my work in health physics, I am also engaged as a science writer. My writing credits include over 200 bylined articles in the encyclopedia series "Science and its Times", a few books on science for middle-school students, and an account of life on a submarine, "Rig Ship for Ultra Quiet" (now, unfortunately, out of print). I am currently working on a series of 8 books on science and social controversy, which will be published by Facts on File as they are completed.