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Mike Cipoletti

Assistant Professor of Forensic Science

Now an Assistant Professor of Forensic Science at Waynesburg University, he brings to the classroom his extensive experience in the field and training in analyzing and comparing physical evidence. He also has professional experiences in investigating and processing illicit drug labs, hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction. 

Cipoletti holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Westminster College and an M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from West Virginia University.

Please describe your program and your vision for it.

The Forensics Program at Waynesburg University consists of four majors – Forensic Science, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Biology and Forensic Investigation. Our mission is to provide well-founded, interdisciplinary curricula that prepares graduates for a broad range of career opportunities. Our vision for the program is to remain grounded in the natural sciences, while infusing forensic and investigative professional practice throughout the program by utilizing theory and hands-on experiences in the lab and field.

What are some of your former students up to now? 

  • Dr. Amber (Wallack) Valeri ’10 – Practicing Physician at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Nicole (Briggeman) Sellers ’10 – Civil Case Administer/Courtroom Deputy at U.S. District Court for Eastern District of North Carolina
  • Kelly Brady ’11 – Forensic Technician 2 with Philadelphia Department of Public Health
  • Brett Gage ’11 – Physician Assistant at WVU Ruby Memorial Hospital
  • Patrick Crawford ’12 – Forensic Biologist at Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab
  • Stephanie Yocca ’13 – Criminalist at Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab
  • Samuel Patton ’13 – Trooper with Pennsylvania State Police
  • Lydia Hakola ’14 – Forensic Chemist at Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab
  • Jeff Strider ’15 – Lab Ambassador with PerkinElmer, Inc.
  • Amanda (Hobe) Camody ’15 – Principle Scientist at DrugScan
  • Jelena Kyle ’16 – Analytical Chemist at Aegis Sciences Corporation
  • Tarah Helsel ’16 – Forensic Scientist II at RJ Lee Group
  • Kristine Houser ’17 – Chemist at Mylan Pharmaceuticals
  • Michael Manning ’17 – Crime Scene Investigator at Corpus Christi Police Department
  • Cara (Paraska) Hazen ’18 – graduate student in Marshall University’s M.S. Forensic Science Program
  • Melanie Kauffman ’18 – Quality Specialist at CSL Plasma

If I were a student considering this major, what are some career paths I would be able to pursue? 

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of all of the majors in the Forensics Program, as well as our focus on professional practice, the range of potential career pathways is very broad. We’ve had graduates go on to careers in the pharmaceutical and information technology industries as well as the FBI and Secret Service. Graduates also attend law school, medical school and physician assistant school. 

Forensic science, biology and chemistry students can pursue careers in forensic laboratories, criminal investigations and entry-level biological or chemical laboratories as well as seek advanced degrees in the forensic or physical sciences, law or medicine. Forensic investigation students have the opportunity to pursue careers in crime scene/forensic investigations, evidence handling, criminal investigations and law enforcement. Forensic investigation graduates will also be prepared to pursue graduate degrees in criminal investigation or criminal justice administration.

What do you think is a true differentiator for WU or your program?

I think our small college atmosphere allows us to be more effective in advising our students in both academics and career planning. The interdisciplinary nature of our majors requires our students to take just as many courses with criminal justice, chemistry and biology faculty as they do with forensics faculty. Our family environment enables students to form relationships with those professors, too. The diversity of advising and curricular programming helps students find the best fit for their interests and skill sets.

Has this program or associated faculty received any awards or recognition?

Faith Musko was awarded the 2012 American Chemical Society Leadership Development Award, and I was awarded the Lucas-Hathaway Teaching Excellence Award in 2015. In 2012, we hosted the American Academy of Forensic Science Education Conference.

What is the most interesting place that you have visited and why?

The most interesting place I’ve visited is probably the Nevada National Security Site (previously known as the Nevada Test Site or Nevada Proving Grounds) in Nye County, Nevada, which is northwest of the city of Las Vegas. I visited there on a few occasions while I was working for PA State Police’s Clandestine Lab and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Response Team. There, I received WMD Radiological/Nuclear Hazardous Materials Response Training. We did training exercises in “ghost towns” constructed over the grounds where they used to test nuclear weapons in the 50’s and 60’s. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t forget about our CSI Camp. We have the longest continuously running Crime Scene Investigation Summer Camp in the world– 15 years and counting. We’ve hosted well over 500 high school students from across the country and several different countries for a week of crime scene and forensic investigation instruction and hands-on experiences. Many different professional agencies collaborate by providing workshops – FBI, ATF, PA State Police, RJ Lee Group, Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Crime Lab, Westmoreland County Detective Bureau and Coroner’s Office, and many, many more.

Learn more

Our Department of Chemistry & Forensic Science has a suite of instruments that allows us to offer premier and exceptionally modern laboratory experiences both in teaching and research lab settings. Students work directly on the instruments; they learn operation procedures, troubleshooting, method development, and interpretation of results. The types of testing and analyses enabled by this instrumentation helps faculty and students to be innovative at the very frontiers of science.