Kelly Howerter

Kelly Howerter

Chemistry and Criminal Justice, 2006

Forensic scientist in the analysis of controlled substances with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science

Both the chemistry and criminal justice classes provided the background for working in the forensics field in a laboratory setting.

I learned the basic and advanced knowledge and skills of chemistry, and had experience with instrumentation and laboratory work. The criminal justice program allowed me to see the legal aspects of my field and understand court proceedings, which is now beneficial when I provide expert courtroom testimony.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Dr. Chriss McDonald in his lab during a summer internship and fall capstone class, which allowed me to have hands-on experience as a research scientist. The late Dr. Carter was also an integral part of my criminal justice classes and an outstanding reference for securing real-life experience outside of the classroom. He provided the information I needed to apply for and accept the Federal Bureau of Investigation Honors Intern Program appointment. During this internship, I worked closely with FBI agents and scientists at their lab in Quantico, Va., on sensitive cases, and had an opportunity to experience a forensics career that closely resembles my current position.

With the increased popularity of the forensic science field due to the CSI effect, I feel that students would be more confident having a degree in a hard science to broaden their options for a career. This combination of chemistry and criminal justice helped me tremendously.

My advice for students would be to go to class and become involved, get to know your professors because they are incredible resources and get experience. Even if you have to volunteer somewhere in your field, do it! Being able to say I’ve had two incredible internships and held leadership positions in several organizations was a huge benefit in helping me attain my current position.