Jenna Roussillon, B.S. Biological Sciences ’13
Q. Tell me a little about your current career or career path.
Currently, I’m studying at Towson University in pursuit of my Master’s in Forensic Science. I hope to work in a crime lab, ultimately on the federal level with biological materials.
Q. How long is your current program? Are you planning on getting further degrees to achieve your career goals?
I am halfway through a two-year program. I am not planning on getting further degrees. There is a severe problem with under-filling positions due to costs. Once I have a full-time position, I might be required by my employer to pursue a doctoral level degree, but my employer should offer education compensation for that. It is much harder to be hired when fresh out of a doctoral program without working full-time first.
Q. What kinds of tasks will you be performing in your future career?
It depends on what sort of job I get. Obviously, when fresh out of college, you can’t expect to get your dream job straight away. I would love to work analyzing DNA and DNA mixtures in order to identify suspects/victims/etc. in crimes. However, I might be accepted as a serologist (body fluids analyst) or some variety of crime scene technician to start. I could also be accepted in labs that aren’t necessarily directly involved as a crime lab.
Q. Briefly, describe your experiences as an Biology undergraduate at UMBC
As a biology undergraduate at UMBC, I was a decent student. I struggled to excel (at least in my own opinion) at multiple choice tests, but I worked hard and did well at lab reports, research papers, and short answer type questions. I made myself power through it, and sought out an undergraduate research position. I also sought out summer internships independently (without help from UMBC). That work experience was invaluable in making up for my relatively unremarkable grades (As/Bs/some Cs).
Q. In what ways did your degree from UMBC prepare you for your current career path?
Taking courses like Genetics, Virology, and Microbiology were invaluable in understanding some of the theory behind how bacteria and viruses function. They also contributed to my understanding of DNA.
Q. What attributes do you think make one well-suited to pursue your career?
I think people need to understand that Forensic Science is NOT like what you see on the CSI/NCIS/etc. television shows. It is tedious work with long hours. You have to be attentive to detail and be able to sustain that attention even when mentally/physically exhausted. You are contributing to whether or not a person goes to jail/prison (regardless of innocence or guilt) so you have to be on point all the time. Yes, mistakes will occur, but they need to be caught or they can damage the case you’re working on.
Q. What advice would you give to current undergraduate students interested in your career path?
If you’re over the age of 18, ask to go on a police ride-along. Or try getting a job with campus police (I did). It will give you advanced knowledge of the field that you’re getting into. Also, keep in mind that you are in a law enforcement-based field. You will have to undergo a background check. No hard drug usage is allowed. No “minor” drug usage is allowed within a certain time frame of your interview. Don’t give the interviewers a reason to doubt your integrity/willingness to uphold laws. Don’t post those photos of you drinking on facebook! Especially if you’re underage (since you shouldn’t be drinking anyway). Stay out of trouble. You have to keep in mind that you are likely to represent a police force or government agency, so things that may be against the desired representation of self can disqualify you from the field.
There are internships too, though some are on a volunteer basis.