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b2ap3_thumbnail_LeCain_Elizabeth_7.JPGWaynesburg University compels many students to step outside of their comfort zones when applying to internship positions. But for Elizabeth LeCain, a senior forensic science major from Andover, Mass., a cross-country road trip to her research internship in Golden, Colo., didn’t scare her at all.

“Being able to drive across the country was great,” LeCain said. “I managed to see half of the states and many of the National Parks, which was just incredible.”

LeCain spent the summer of 2013 as an Undergraduate Research Associate with the Colorado School of Mines as a part of a national Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). She synthesized one of several different monomers to create a polymer, working toward the overall goal of improving solar cell efficiency.

The senior, who is actively involved in University student chapters and activities including the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates, Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honorary Society, Kamma Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honorary Society and serves as a lab assistant in the department of chemistry, believes that her extra-curricular studies helped secure the internship.

“Most of my time at the internship was spent trying to purify different products so that they would be of high enough quality to use in a future reaction,” LeCain said. “My favorite part was when we finally formed the polymer and were able to see it precipitate, indicating that the polymer had in fact formed.”

The process of forming the polymer required much trial and error, as well as patience, practical application and laboratory experience. Mostly, LeCain said that her classes at Waynesburg University aided immensely in her internship success.

“I learned several laboratory techniques in my labs at Waynesburg that I was able to utilize in Colorado,” LeCain said. “Also, the skills I have acquired in keeping a lab notebook and writing lab reports at Waynesburg were helpful in doing those same tasks at my internship.”

Though she expected to work in the Colorado School of Mines’ laboratories most of the summer, LeCain said she didn’t anticipate to be granted such autonomy in her research.

“I wasn't expecting to be on my own as much as I was, but that forced me to solve a lot of problems,” she said. “This reminded me that there is a reason for everything and helped me to keep an open mind toward all the changes I had to make. I was there to learn, and I was able to do that. There was a lot of new information I had to absorb and it was a challenge, but Waynesburg University prepared me for that.”

 

 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Angelic-Wray-2.jpg

Being accepted into a program available to graduate students currently enrolled in a specific program at a specific university is something nearly impossible for most outsiders.

With perseverance and a thorough interview, however, Angelic Wray, a senior forensic science major, became the first student outside of Arcadia University’s Forensic Science graduate program to become a Research Assistant and Mentor for the G. John DiGregorio Summer Mentoring Program at the Forensic Mentors Institute (FMI).

“I wanted to expose myself to research opportunities in my field, determine what field of forensics was best for me and challenge myself to a side of chemistry I was uncomfortable with,” Wray said.

Like many who have applied for and received internship opportunities, Wray’s experience consisted of tremendous commitment. Over a period of several months, Wray corresponded with the program director as well as the entire FMI staff through a series of emails where she described her interest in the program and her experience in forensics, biology and chemistry at Waynesburg.

From June 21 to Aug. 24, 2013, Wray put forth 367 hours of research and mentorship where she assisted students with hands-on learning such as data analysis, lab techniques, presentations and public speaking practice.

Her focused research project was to “validate the basic liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) developed in house using the Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) for the screening of common drugs in urine.”

“Samples were analyzed using the SCAN-MT and SCAN-MT DER method on the GC-MS for the detection of common drugs,” Wray said.

The G. John DiGregorio Summer Mentoring Program is an eight-week program held annually during the summer as an opportunity for high school students to become prepared for college and the forensic science field through practical learning and mentorship.

“I expected the internship to be showing students how to do different science techniques and apply it to a research project,” Wray said. “However, it was much more than what I expected. I needed to not only show them how to conduct authentic research, but use their findings as a starting point for the experiment.”

Trying to get high school students to understand certain science terminology, concepts and procedures was Wray’s biggest challenge, but watching them grow was something well worth the effort.

“Many [students] started out shy and had very little public speaking skills, but developed great confidence by the end of the program,” Wray said. “Just knowing I was able to bring that growth out of the students brought me great joy. Every day was a combination of great work, disaster and fun.”

As a student at Waynesburg, Wray is involved in several activities. She is a member of Waynesburg’s American Chemical Society (ACS), EcoStewards Club, Forensic Science Club, Future Alumni Society, Gospel Choir, Leadership Scholarship and is a Waynesburg University Student Ambassador.

Wray credits her confidence and precise problem solving skills, among other things, during her internship this summer to her involvement in activities, clubs and courses at Waynesburg.
Not only was an impact made on Wray through her experience, an impact was also made on the students she challenged. Left in the form of a short “mentor appreciation” note, student mentees claimed Wray inspired them to become better scientists, making it one of the most enjoyable summers they have ever experienced.

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Waynesburg University CSI students resized 600

Have you ever watched CSI and thought: “I could do that”?

 

Have you ever sat in your recliner with a bag of chips, watching the characters uncovering the crime scene, and tried to solve the investigation before the show reveals the ending?
If you answered yes to these questions, then Waynesburg University may be the place to test your abilities.

 

Earlier this week, four Waynesburg forensic science students accepted the challenge to live out their own CSI moments when they were called by the Maltase Fire Investigation http://www.maltasefire.com/ to help investigate the source of a local house fire.

 

Seniors Stephanie Yocca, Jennifer Miller, Cory Briendel and junior Drew Heinle dug through layers of ashy debris in search of any electrical appliances that could have potentially ignited the flames.

 

Like the actors in CSI, minus the Hollywood theatricals and glamour, the students sifted through the scene, locating and documenting every appliance they found. Every suspected culprit was then handed off to an electrical engineer for x-rays who will determine whether there were any faulty parts present.

 

Waynesburg University CSI Students

 

While the students await the news of whether it was a lamp, toaster, computer or an unidentified device that set the house ablaze, Professor Michael Cipoletti, Assistant Professor and Program Director of Forensic Sciences, claims the real-life experience was invaluable.

 

“Although the University is good at providing realistic mock scenes on campus with our Crime Scene Investigation Center, we aren't going to set it on fire,” said Cipoletti. “Here the students got to experience an actual scene under difficult, real conditions, and learn from a professional investigator first-hand.”

 

So next time you find yourself trying to solve the latest crime scene mystery from your couch, think about your future and what you could be doing with your own investigation skills.

 

Are you up for the challenge?

 



Tagged in: Forensic Science
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forensic science conference attendee

Waynesburg University's Department of Chemistry and Forensic Science hosted the American Academy of Forensic Science Educators Conference from Tuesday, August 7, through Thursday, August 9, on the campus of Waynesburg University. 

“The teachers had the opportunity to receive professional, hands-on forensic training from some of the area's top experts in serology, DNA identification, trace evidence, latent print and impression evidence, crime scene processing and drug identification,” said Mike Cipoletti, assistant professor of forensic science and director of the forensic science program. 

According to the American Academy of Forensic Science, the goal of the conference was to increase science teachers' knowledge of the forensic sciences and to assist them as they enrich and/or develop challenging, innovative curricula. 

“I have gained the tools, skills and confidence necessary to teach forensics for the first time,” said Maggie Chambers, a biology and forensics high school teacher from Redmond, Wash. “This opportunity to network and share ideas with experts and other teachers has been invaluable.”

Waynesburg University faculty members, including Cipoletti; Adam Jack, assistant professor of forensic science and chair of criminal justice and social science; and Marietta Wright, assistant professor of biology, led a majority of the sessions including General Crime Scene Processing, DNA Analysis and Interpretation, Latent Print Development and Drug Identification.

Waynesburg University coordinated additional speakers including Detective Tim Sethman (Westmoreland County), Peter Alex (FBI Criminal Justice Information Services), Sara Bittner (Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office), Trooper Rich Hunter (Pennsylvania State Police) and Allison Murtha (RJ Lee Group).

“All of the presenters are experienced trainers and/or educators, so they were able to share ideas and tips that the teachers may be able to use in their own classrooms and labs,” Cipoletti said. 

Among the conference attendees were educators from all over the country, including Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Virginia and Washington. 

“I came to this conference looking to enhance my background knowledge in forensics, and I have certainly learned a lot,” said Karen Wickersham, a high school teacher from Troy, Mich. “ I'll leave here with a lot of new ideas.”

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Contact: Ashley Wise, Communication Specialist

724.852.7675 or awise@waynesburg.edu

 

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