Rachael Rodriguez’s interest in forensic science started when she was in high school watching television shows like “CSI” and “NCIS” where crime scene analysts solve a crime in less than an hour.
As a forensic science major at Seton Hill, Rachael learned the reality behind the Hollywood take on everything from DNA to fingerprint analysis.
“Everything that she taught us is everything I do now.”
Now, as a forensic DNA scientist with the Pennsylvania State Police DNA Lab in Greensburg, Rachael is responsible for providing the scientific proof that can send a suspect to prison or set them free.
Rachael began her career with the State Police in March 2012 and found that Seton Hill forensic science instructor Barbara Flowers had prepared her well.
“Everything that she taught us is everything I do now,” she says. “I knew coming into the job what I was getting into. It was just a matter of learning the state police’s procedures and working my way into casework.”
Rachael handles anywhere from two to 15 cases at a time – depending on how much evidence in each case needs analyzed. Her cases range from property crimes such as burglaries and thefts to violent crimes such as assaults and homicides.
Any evidence left behind that could contain DNA is sent to the Greensburg lab, the only State Police DNA laboratory in Pennsylvania.
Sometimes, she’s tasked with matching crime scene DNA to that of a known suspect. Other times, she tries to find a match in a national DNA database and identifies an unknown suspect.
“I can provide investigators with the evidence to arrest that person before they harm someone else,” she says. “That’s one of the things I love about my job.”
Seton Hill’s young alumni are making their mark on the world through their work in science and healthcare, finance and business, industry, entertainment and service to those in need. The Spring/Winter 2017 edition of Seton Hill’s Forward magazine featured 30 of these alumni, all under the age of 30. You can find all of their stories here on Seton Hill’s site (just look for the “30 Under 30” icon).