Ms. Thwaites kindly agreed to being interviewed by Forensic Nexus to share her career path. We asked her the following questions:
What is your area of expertise/forensic discipline?
I am employed as a Forensic Chemist. I analyze illegal and legal substances by confirming the presence of a controlled substance and provide expert testimony in court on the results of the analysis.
Where do you work as a forensic scientist?
I work for the Philadelphia Police Department-Forensic Science Bureau, Chemistry Unit.
What is your typical work day like?
My typical work day is to analyze drug submissions by performing presumptive and confirmatory tests to identify the controlled substance. I analyze various type of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
When I was a teenager, I worked as a pharmacy technician and was a pre-pharmacy major in college. I always had an interest in the history and pharmacology of drugs which led me to drug chemistry.
What is your academic background?
I earned a B.S degree in Chemistry from Temple University and received on the job training when I was hired as a forensic chemist. Many students ask me the type of degree I earned to work as a forensic scientist and when I reveal my academic background, they are shocked because they think that a forensic scientist must earn a masters in forensic science to be qualified as a forensic scientist. Depending upon the forensic discipline, an undergraduate degree in a physical or life science with on the job forensic training is sufficient.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most about my job as a forensic chemist is learning about new drug trends and serving as a volunteer for my non profit organization Association of Women in Forensic Science, Inc. (AWIFS) to encourage young people to pursue studies and careers in forensic science.
What suggestions do you have for students that are interested in pursuing a career in your profession?
Mentorship is key when you are interested in pursuing a career in a professional field, so I suggest that students get connected with someone that can give them the proper guidance and connections. Someone like a academic advisor, or a science teacher would be a good start, but internet searches and publications are a great resource as well.
Have we covered all bases? Any further questions come to mind while reading Ms. Thwaites’ story? Please feel free to submit questions by commenting on this post and we will direct them to Ms. Thwaites and post her responses.
Forensic Nexus would like to thank Ms. Thwaites for her participation. She has also agreed to offer mentorship to individuals seeking career advisement.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about mentorship.
Every Monday we will be spotlighting forensic professionals. To contribute your story, please visit this link.
Till next week!