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Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC)

School of Adult and Graduate Education
Blaney Hall 105

Lawrence A. Quarino, Ph.D.
Director/Professor, Forensic Science
610-437-4471 ext. 3567

Jessica Braeunle

Scientific Competency

Jessica Braeunle
Quakertown PA

There are many aspects as to what can define a competent scientist. When it comes to a forensic scientist, the ability to be confident in your knowledge and opinions, develop strong fact-based conclusions, and provide an efficient work ethic are extremely valuable characteristics to hold.

In the MSFS program at Cedar Crest College, there is no question that I am already developing these qualities. Going into the scientific and legal world of forensic science, it can be extremely intimidating. Not only do you need to produce results that are accurate and precise, but you must be able to provide testimony both in the courtroom, and at your work bench. In just taking a few courses in the program, the depth of knowledge that is explained and taught by the instructors is incomparable. Each student learns from professors who have years of actual experience to use in their lectures. Specifically, in the laboratory, each student works independently to practice these areas. A breadth of knowledge can be learned from just a classroom setting with experienced instructors that this program has, but to be able to work directly on the instrumentation you learn about is far more valuable, at least for me. The key to being competent in your field, is to PRACTICE what you learn. The more hands-on experience you have with the instrumentation and the guidance of these instructors, the more confident you will be when you go off to the career field. I personally adored the course, “Recent Advances in Forensic Biology”. The lectures for me were filled with information and in-class discussion about everything that a forensic biologist may come across. You learn how different body fluids interact with different surface types on a molecular level, to which you can apply to scenarios faced in the field. Knowing how these fluids interact with surfaces, fabrics, and even other body fluids, you build the knowledge to know how to extract them from these types of objects. In the laboratory, you are given scenario evidence samples in almost all courses, portraying these fluids and objects, and you, as a practicing analyst, get to practice hands-on with these materials. You work with the evidence, you work with the advanced instrumentation to process the evidence, and after completing this course, I am that much more confident that I can bring this knowledge to professional casework.

Additionally, the ability to develop fact-based conclusions is equally important in scientific competency. In the workplace, you will definitely need to combine your conclusions with the conclusions of other colleagues and individuals. In the courses you take and the research you choose to study, your scientific background will multiply with all that you experience as a student in the MSFS program. Again, the instructors provide you with real casework experiences, and research they have invested in or learned from. Of course every individual you come across in your career might have their own opinion, but you as a forensic scientist coming out of this program can feel strong in the work you produce, and know why the results produce the way they may. As a fully-rounded scientist, you can bring forth your knowledge to others and contribute yourself in a way that you feel confident with. I bring up the term “fully-rounded scientist”, because of the program’s broader scope of education. The program focuses on aspects of forensic science coming from the crime scene itself, the laboratory, the autopsy room, the courtroom, and in the quality of the data. Whichever realm you desire, your ability to dive into these areas both individually and cooperatively is an option for you. All of these practices allow you to develop strong conclusions from each specific field, and use it in any aspect you decide to work in.

I finally wish to touch base with the workplace quality that I believe every scientist must hold: an efficient work ethic. Having a work ethic is a major quality on its own that scientists must have, but the key, is to be efficient. It is well known that the scientific world and importantly in forensic science, that things do not always go to plan, and the workload will keep coming whether you are prepared or not as an analyst. In the program you again learn hands-on how to troubleshoot instruments and practice on evidence that need quality control, assurance, and maintenance checks. Your ability as a forensic analyst to efficiently work through these obstacles and return to the quality of work that you started with is imperative! The workload will not stop for bumps in the road behind the scenes, but taking courses where you learn how to handle your workload not only to a certain standard, but with efficiency will help you in any workplace. Your peers in these courses and the professors you have will help guide you in any way you need, but also prepare you as an individual to work through tough scientific obstacles and to keep going. To know why an instrument is malfunctioning, and to quickly work to ensure its repair while maintaining your casework is something you can feel confident in doing moving forward after completion of the program. Going into an interview or field with actual experiences with these types of complications will be valued upon, and respected in the workplace. To go about these scenarios in a positive manner and to enjoy the work that you are doing is so much more beneficial, and I have Cedar Crest College to thank for this. I entered this program so passionate for forensic science, and I cannot deny the support from my professors to fulfil my dream, and to be confident and prepared for whatever I venture on to.