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Alumni Profiles

The EKU Forensic Science program has over 400 graduates. They are currently employed in a variety of occupations or attending graduate school. Our students graduate with a strong background in science and are prepared academically for many scientific or professional careers including work in forensic science, education, science, law, medicine, and many other occupations. You can see a list of some of their placements on this page of the website. To get a better appreciation about the diversity of career paths of some of our graduates, choose a name below.

Emily Turner

An alumni conducting an investigation of a burned vehicle.

Emily is a 2010 graduate of the Forensic Science program. She is in her third year of employment as a Trace Evidence Examiner at the Hamilton County Coroner’s Crime Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. She currently conducts hair comparisons, fire debris analysis and glass comparisons, as well as gunshot residue analysis. She is currently training in the disciplines of shoe impressions, physical fits, fiber and paint comparisons, and miscellaneous identifications. She is a member of ASTEE and an Associate Member of the Mid-Western Association of Forensic Scientists.

How did your EKU degree contribute to and prepare you for your career?
EKU’s relevant classes and extremely knowledgeable staff prepared me for my career. EKU also set up my internship at the Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory. The internship portrayed the internal workings of a real crime lab. I was able to observe casework, perform proficiency tests, and complete research. The experience I gained and the contacts I made ultimately led to me landing my dream job in Cincinnati, Ohio.

What is your most significant accomplishment (personal and/or career)?
During my second year of employment I had the chance to testify about GSR analysis by SEM/EDS in a Daubert hearing. I was required to explain to the judge why my testing methods and protocols were scientifically valid. A defense expert was hired in order to discredit my testing methods. After my testimony the judge ruled in the prosecution’s favor and agreed with the scientific basis for my analysis. The defendant ultimately pled guilty following the judge’s ruling.

What is your most significant learning experience or what dramatic event has had the most effect on you?
Through the course of my daily work I am constantly learning from those around me, including police officers and firefighters. Colleagues, with their own area of expertise, are always eager to help brainstorm for an unusual or difficult case. I plan on learning as much as I possibly can throughout my career.

Who influenced you the most while at EKU?
Mrs. Wheeler and Dr. Smith. Mrs. Wheeler’s knowledge and field related experience in trace helped solidify my desire to become a trace analyst. Dr. Smith’s classes were difficult but taught me the most. I learned a great deal in his classes, as well as outside them. I discovered it was acceptable to seek additional help and further explanations. I began absorbing information like a sponge because I wanted to learn everything I could from those who inspired me.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?
You’re not an expert until you’ve made every mistake”- Michael Trimpe, and “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”- Albert Einstein

What would be your advice to incoming or students thinking about coming to EKU?
Classes and labs require hard work. Make sure you have activities outside of school. Those activities and the friends you make will help keep you sane!

Brent Casper

An alumni poses for a photo.

Brent is a recent graduate of the program. He is pursuing his doctorate degree in chemistry at the University of Kentucky. He is currently performing mass spectrometry based research, with a focus on forensic science. His research project deals with gunshot residue analysis (GSR), in particular the organic components of GSR. He is a student member of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

How did your EKU degree contribute to and prepare you for your career?
My degree at EKU was very helpful with obtaining hands-on lab experience. Because of my lab experience while at EKU, I felt very comfortable working in a lab as a graduate student. I felt that I really had an edge compared to other graduate students who started the same time as me.

What is your most significant accomplishment (personal and/or career)?
My most significant accomplishment was when I recently presented my research at the AAFS conference. It was very interesting to see all the other areas of research going on in other areas of forensic science. I also obtained a lot of valuable feedback from other individuals who either work in the field of forensics or are conducting research in this field.

Who influenced you the most while at EKU?
All the professors at EKU. Every professor was very understanding and always took time to help me understand concepts which I was learning in lecture and help apply them when taking the lab. Each professor also had an open door policy where you could always come in if you had questions.

What would be your advice to incoming or students thinking about coming to EKU?
Be prepared to work hard. The degree at EKU is very challenging but worth it. It pays off in the end.

Mollie Ervin

Mollie Ervin graduated from the program in 2007. She is now working with the Ohio Division of the State Fire Marshal’s Forensic Lab. Mollie was kind enough to give us a peek into her day-to-day duties:

“The Ohio Division of the State Fire Marshal’s Forensic Lab is relatively small. We are the only Arson Lab in the state of Ohio and we receive cases from all 88 counties. The specific disciplines we offer are: fire debris analysis, latent print processing, explosives analysis, and audio / video analysis.

All of our analysts are cross trained. The two disciplines I concentrate on are latent print processing and fire debris analysis.

As for every day duties for latent print processing…

Documentation starts the moment the evidence is in my possession. I look at how the evidence is packaged, notate if incorrectly packaged. I take each piece of evidence out and write down on my Evidence Description Form, exactly what the evidence looks likes, if its burnt, melted, covered in soot… in good condition, if something is missing (like a spout on the gasoline can), etc.. I also need to make sure that what is in the package is what the investigator has on their submission sheet.

I then categorize the evidence so I can figure the best processing method to find latent prints. If the item is non-porous… I will superglue fume first. Then depending on the condition of the item, I may follow it up with just dusting with black powder or I may use a chemical dye stain with an alternate light source.

If the item is porous, I use two sequential chemical solutions. The first is known as DFO (1, 8-Diazafluoren-9-one), where I dip the porous item in this solution, let it dry, then heat in an oven for 10 minutes, then use the alternate light source to find any possible latent prints. If I do find prints, or I don’t… I like to follow it up with another chemical solution called Ninhydrin. Ninhydrin does not require an alternate light source. These prints will actually show up purple once developed. And if possible latent prints of value are found, they all need to be photographed with a scale and tag in the picture for documentation and future comparison and identification (at a different agency).

There are a few items like the adhesive side of tape, or candles, or road flares that require a different type of analysis. But tape is my favorite!! So easy to find latents on the sticky side! ☺

When it comes to analyzing fire debris…

For ignitable liquid, it is not as black or white as latent print processing (you either find a latent print or you don’t).

The sample preparation for the evidence is the simple part. Open up the packaging, either a fire debris bag (not plastic) or a lined can, and hang a carbon strip inside and reseal the package. Then the evidence is heated in the oven overnight for 16 hours. The next morning we come in, take out the carbon strip, desorb it with carbon disulfide and put those samples on our Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS).

With fire debris, the most difficult part comes with the actually analysis of the chromatograms. We state if there is an ignitable liquid present, and what category (if there is one present) it’s under. For example, a charcoal lighter fluid may be categorized as a medium petroleum distillate, some auto part cleaners may be categorized as an aromatic product, and gasoline is its own category, etc.

Along with analyzing evidence, I run experiments for my own personal knowledge. I have to keep up with maintenance on instruments and equipment. If new instrumentation or equipment come in, then I am responsible for validating that equipment and writing the standard operating procedure. I am also responsible for the chemical inventory for all the chemicals in our laboratory. I communicate a lot with investigators, prosecutors and other law enforcement/ fire department personnel.

I love my job!!”

Kevin Lothridge

Kevin Lothridge, CEO, National Forensic Science Technology Center

As a 1984 graduate of the EKU Forensic Science program, Kevin began his forensics career with the Pinellas County Forensic Laboratory working specifically with fire debris evidence. In 1998, he joined the staff at the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) and became the CEO of NFSTC in 2006. He has served the forensic community in many capacities including being an ASCLD past-president.

How did your EKU degree contribute to and prepare you for your career?
My career in forensics, both in practice and management, requires a strong foundation in physical science and criminal justice. Eastern Kentucky’s program helped me gain that solid foundation in science as well as an overall understanding of how the criminal justice systems functions.

What is your most significant accomplishment (personal and/or career)?
While at the Pinellas County Forensics Lab, I helped establish the fire debris analysis unit as well as author the accompanying book on ignitable liquid residues. Also, I was one of the first scientists to work with canines and have since done a lot of work with detection dogs. There is a certification process for detection dogs and I did some of the original work with Florida International University to establish that certification program. We certified all the dogs working for the Florida Highway Patrol, both in drug and explosive detection.

What is your most significant learning experience or what dramatic event has had the most effect on you?
September 11 was significant because of the implications for and importance placed on forensic intelligence in the post-9/11 landscape. How forensics can be used for things outside what people expect has been a learning experience. Forensic science has become more than just going to court and testifying; it’s used in many other ways across numerous industries now. It can prevent crime, solve serial crimes, help prevent disasters and so much more.

Who influenced you the most while at EKU?
Dr. Robert Fraas had a profound influence on me. Dr. Fraas was firm but fair and kept science as the central focus; the most important thing. He was not easy, but he kept me on the right track.

What is your fondest memory of EKU?
My fondest memory is without a doubt the first night football game that Eastern Kentucky ever played. We had a great football program when I was there.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Do something you love and if it stops being fun, do something else. Life should be enjoyable. If a job becomes too much like work, find another job.

What would be your advice to incoming or students thinking about coming to EKU?
Have a balance between school and fun. Know that after your four years, you will either go on to graduate school or become employed. Study hard, but make sure you enjoy it while you are there.

Mat Wyatt

A headshot of Mat Wyatt, an EKU alumni.

Mat Wyatt is a 2001 graduate of the forensic science program. He began his forensic career at the Montgomery County Crime Lab and then after a few months, joined the Hamilton County Coroner’s Crime Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. He worked primarily arson and GSR cases while with Hamilton County. He is currently a Forensic Chemist in the Trace Evidence Branch of the US Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory working GSR and fiber cases.

How did your EKU degree contribute to and prepare you for your career?
The education at EKU allowed me to hit the ground running when I entered the workforce. With the instrumentation theory in classes and the practical experience I gained during my internship, I walked into my first forensic job with the confidence and knowledge of how a forensic laboratory operated and how to adequately do my job. I still had lots of on the job training, but it was made easier by the knowledge I gained while at EKU.

What is your most significant accomplishment (personal and/or career)?
Professionally, I think my most significant accomplishment has been the ability to be hired and excel at a federal forensic laboratory. It all started with my education at EKU (including my internship) and flourished with my professional experience under my mentor, fellow alum, Michael Trimpe at the Hamilton County Coroner’s Crime Laboratory. Now I work in the Trace Evidence Branch at the Defense Forensic Science Center’s (DFSC) US Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL).

What is your most significant learning experience or what dramatic event has had the most effect on you?
Thinking back on my career, I can think of two significant learning experiences.

The first came from my job at the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office where I learned how to examine gunshot residue via a scanning electron microscope with energy dispersive x-ray spectrometer (SEM/EDS). This instrument was a very large, expensive, and complicated piece of analytical equipment. I trained on two different SEM/EDS instruments at my job in Hamilton County and learned to not fear the instrument (or any future instrument I came across). I am very comfortable operating and diagnosing problems on an SEM/EDS and thoroughly enjoy working with our three SEM/EDS systems at my current job with the US Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory.

The second significant learning experience came from a courtroom experience when I was first starting out. I went to observe a coworker testify for a drug case. Observing testimony was a great way for new hires to see what it was like to testify in a court of law. I learned so much from all those trials I watched, but the best lesson I learned was during a recess. I was sitting in the courtroom waiting for them to call my coworker onto the stand. I sat down just in time to watch the cross-examination of a police officer by the defense attorney. It was apparently a very confrontational cross-examination as there were several objections from the prosecutor, finger pointing by both attorneys, and all sorts of theatrics from the defense council. Once it was over, the judge called a brief 5 minute recess before they called the next witness (my coworker, who at this point, I was very nervous  for). During the recess both attorneys relaxed their stances. I watched the defense attorney waltz over to the prosecution table and the two began chatting about a recent golf tournament that had been on television. They were just chatting it up as if they were together in a sports bar or something. I was so confused because I had just finished watching fangs, venom, and talons come out from both of them during the most recent cross-examination. It was then that I learned the valuable lesson. Everyone is there to do a job—a very important job, mind you—but a job none the less. There is nothing personal about the attacks that occur thou sometimes they might feel like a personal attack on your character. I learned to take all the theatrics of court in stride and it helped me to remain calm when on the stand. I also trained myself to begin testimony as a teaching environment. I am the expert who knows my field better than anyone in the room and it is up to me to TEACH them about what I do and what my results mean. This also helps me to relax and get thru testimony. Sometimes it gets contentious, but when it does, I have already established a calm and a rapport with the jury that I am able to handle the tough situations that sometimes arise during trial testimony.

Who influenced you the most while at EKU?
When I started at EKU back in 1997, the entire forensic department consisted of Dr. Robert Fraas. He was very influential with me. My first impression of him came during a campus visit before my senior year in high school. I came away with the impression that he kept up with his students after they graduated and went into their professional careers in forensics. I thought this was very good for future employment opportunities. Later on Dr. Diane Vance came on board while I was still in school and together, they assisted my college career into an eventual internship which resulted in by getting hired in Cincinnati.

What is your fondest memory of EKU?
Oh the memories of college! Where to begin. If I am to keep it on the professional level, I would have to say my most memorable experience in the forensic science program came when I went to Dr. Fraas to inquire about what it would take to go into law school after obtaining my BS degree. First, a small digression: I had just started working with the Eastern Progress as a staff photographer. Photography was one of my hobbies and they had an opening, so I started working there. Who ran the Eastern Progress at that time? None other than the OTHER FRAAS. Dr. Libby Fraas. Oh let me tell you the joys of attending classes for one Dr. Fraas and working for another Dr. Fraas. Anyway, back to my original story: So I sat down in Dr. Fraas’s office and started off the conversation with inquiring what law school would entail. Dr. Fraas looked down, placed his pen on his desk, rubbed his face with his hand, and said “First you start working with my wife down at the newspaper, and NOW you want to go to law school?!  What happened to you?” He ended up running me thru some of the ins and outs of what he knew and I was able to make an informed decision. Ultimately I decided I loved forensics so much and had wanted to work in a forensic laboratory for so long, that I couldn’t change direction at that point. Needless to say, he has had a large impact on many forensic professionals throughout the field.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I got was from Mr. Michael Trimpe, who at the time was the lead Trace Evidence Examiner for the Hamilton County Coroner’s Crime Laboratory in Cincinnati, OH. He gave me advice that was invaluable for expert witness testimony. He told me that you should always be nervous when preparing to testify. No matter how experienced you are, if you’re nervous, you will adequately prepare and be ready for trial.

What would be your advice to incoming or students thinking about coming to EKU?
Students who are about to start the Forensic Science Program at EKU need to know two things. First, don’t worry, school will be over sooner rather than later. No matter how deep you might get in stress of classes or assignments, you will one day look back on it fondly. Second, treat each class as if it will be something you will need to know when you get to a forensic laboratory. There are so many things I learned at the courses I took at EKU, it’s hard to retain it all. But I find myself returning to my class notes from time to time when I start training on a new instrument or technique. You will learn a lot on the job once you get hired at a forensic laboratory. BUT, the field of forensics has become very competitive in recent years and you won’t be able to get your foot in the door without a strong performance at EKU. Ooh, one more thing I just thought of… internship! Internship! Internship! Most valuable hours in my entire curriculum of coursework came from my time at my internship.

We hope, as alumni, you will remember the opportunities made available by the strong science curriculum you obtained at EKU. We hope you will remember future students of the forensic science program and consider lending a helping hand to us. This can be accomplished in several manners; financial donations, providing supplies and/or instrumentation, helping with internship opportunities, assisting future alumni with networking and job placements, and most importantly returning to campus talk with our students and relate your career experiences.

Please remember to update us and join our EKU Forensic Science alumni group on LinkedIn to stay connected with your fellow graduates.

Forensic Science

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Phone: 859-622-1456

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