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Chemist turned video producer for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board

Profile: Shauna Lawhorne, chemist (B.A. 2002), video producer and editor

Shauna Lawhorne: video producer and editor of chemical safety videos. Courtesy photo.

Shauna Lawhorne loves chemistry. She also loves producing videos.

Shauna has found a way to merge these two seemingly incompatible interests: She is a video producer and editor for Sandy Gilmour Communications, a public affairs contractor for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB).

Each chemical safety video Shauna helps produce tells the story of a major chemical accident using both film and computer animations. The goal is to inform the public and prevent future accidents from occurring.

“The videos are an important and successful means of communicating ‘lessons learned’ by the CSB to people,” Shauna explained.

Check out some of their award-winning videos here.

Day to day, you can find Shauna working on any one of the many aspects of video production: reading reports written by CSB investigators, creating an outline of what to include in the video, working with coworkers to write a script, fact-checking, or video editing.

The final product is a cohesive story, complete with narration, music, and often including footage and photos of the incident and interviews with CSB investigators. The entire process can take up to several months.

Shauna’s background makes her ideally suited for her current job. She graduated from Emory University in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She switched into chemistry from physics after taking organic chemistry and finding out “how widespread the applications of chemistry are in our everyday lives.”

During her undergrad years, Shauna also took several film classes in addition to her chemistry load. She had been passionate about making films ever since high school, where she studied media production for four years and worked on her school’s video yearbook and other short video projects.

She went on to study film and electronic media at American University’s School of Communication in Washington, DC.

“Originally, I hoped to combine chemistry and media in a different way – by producing children’s educational programming about science.  I had a dream of creating a show that would get young girls excited about chemistry,” she said.

But during her Master’s program, Shauna learned about social documentary and let her career follow that path for four years as she took her first video production job as an associate producer and editor for a small documentary production company that primarily made “mission” videos for socially conscious non-profit organizations in the DC area.

In 2009, Shauna landed her current job with Sandy Gilmour Communications, making videos for the Chemical Safety Board.

“It was almost too good to be true,” she said. “Here was a position combining every interest – chemistry, film, and social impact.  I wish I could say that I carefully planned it, but in many ways I just got lucky!” Continue reading →