Kent Patton of Apex Labs at Perkins Coie in Portland

September, 2019 – Past NEBC board President Kent Patton shares a little about his profession, personal life, and close encounter with an Alaskan grizzly.

What drew you to your company originally? A great peer group….and a shared focus and mission….and access to instrumentation! Apex Founder/Lab Director, Philip Nerenberg, has provided an opportunity for over 60 talented scientists and technicians to work in partnership with environmental decision-makers.

What are 3 words to describe Apex Labs? Experience. Integrity. Service.

What is your favorite part about working for Apex? The Apex Forensics Division is headed by Senior Chemist Kurt Johnson. I am constantly learning from Kurt and enjoy the technical challenges he brings the lab and the resourceful responses and options his mentoring allows our team to provide.

What has been your favorite project there? Current favorites: Educational outreach, representative sampling and analyses, non-target testing and two-dimensional GC x GC.

Before working at Apex, what was the most unusual or interesting job you ever had? Establishing spill response and remote on-site labs has provided much variety and great satisfaction during my career.

In one particularly busy year I was able to work for weeks north of the Arctic Circle at 40+ below in response to a pipeline break, set up labs on three Aleutian islands in an effort to convert WWII support bases into safe wildlife habitat, and respond to a herbicide spill into the tributary of the Columbia just prior to fishing season.

If it is unusual to have bear and moose knocking at your lab door, I have experienced unusual.

How do you balance your career and family? Balance is difficult when my work is so interesting.

I tried to make it to all my kids’ sporting events, even when they were located all around the state. It helps that my wife, Amy, also works in the environmental field and so we can enjoy conferences together.

What has your involvement been with NEBC? In the early 90s I helped with the formation of the Oregon Environmental Technology Association (OETA). In 1996 the OETA board and our counterpart in Washington – WEIA – came together to create NEBC. It was 1996 when I joined the Cascade Chapter. Over the years I have served as president of the NEBC board and have served on many committees.

In one word, describe yourself. Interested.

What’s one interesting fact about you that most people don’t know? I engaged a grizzly bear while fly fishing out on the Copper River Delta in Alaska. He took my rod but soon abandoned it in favor of his  – more effective – method of fishing.

What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you? “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”
― William Hutchison Murray

What advice do you have for prospective candidates who want to work at your company or in the industry? Be cheerful, curious and creative in your approach to challenges.

Have a plan before you arrive: to contribute to the team and be ready to be asked to think and attack complex problems.

The data will speak for itself so staff will be expected to have the patience and sustained focus to break down problems into solvable components and ask judiciously for help when needed.