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Forensic Science Graduate Works as Forensic Investigator in Daytona Beach

Daniel Wardman graduated from Seton Hill in December 2018 with a degree in forensic science. After moving to Florida, he got a job at Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and now works at the Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office in Daytona Beach. He credits his success as a forensic scientist to his education at Seton Hill. He recently shared his thoughts on his education, his career, and his future goals with us.

Can you give me a brief timeline after you graduated from Seton Hill? 

I graduated in December 2018. I originally went home and worked as a bartender, applying for jobs nationwide as a crime scene investigator. In the summer of 2019, I moved to northern Florida where I live now. I started working as a Crime Scene Investigator with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office that winter. I worked there for just over a year and met my current employer at a class I had signed up for to further my studies while on the job. I must have left a good impression and some time later was asked to join their forces at the Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office in Daytona Beach. I started there in April 2020 and can’t see myself doing anything else! I hope to one day attend graduate school at University of Florida to further my education in forensics.   

What is your typical day like as a forensic scientist?

My day-to-day activities include responding to deaths within the county’s jurisdiction that are accidental, suicide, homicide, unknown, or sometimes natural, depending on the events that took place. It is our job at the office to determine cause and manner of death via information collected from hospitals, family, law enforcement, scene investigation, autopsy and lab work. At this time I am a forensic investigator but in the future I will be tasked with autopsy technician duties once I get a firm understanding of all of the inner workings at the office. 

What interests you about your job?

It’s something different every day. You never know what you are going to walk into. The unpredictability of humans is especially interesting. 

"I can not stress enough as a graduate what the science department at Seton Hill means to me."

How did your education at Seton Hill prepare you for your current job?

When I look back at my education and where I am now, I am very happy I had all those chemistry and bio courses. It very much helps to understand the process of how drugs can impact the body. A lot of terminology and basic fundamentals that I learned at Seton Hill are important to understand on a daily basis at work. Not everything is chemically related, though. My forensic science courses really helped me understand scene response in aiding local law enforcement in their investigations and being able to soak up the information at a scene and gaining a better understanding of what may have happened without having been there during the incident. This helps me be able to relay that information to our pathologist who does the examination so they can best determine cause and manner of death. 

What advice would you give for students looking to get into a forensics career?

First off, decide if you want to be lab-oriented or field-oriented. For me, it was always the field. If you want to be in the field, you need to be comfortable being around gore, death and the unpleasant. I think in Pennsylvania they have a coroners system - that would be a great place to intern and understand the field side of things and see if you really do want to be dealing with death up close and personal. It is not for everyone and it’s best to find that out sooner than later! 

But also remember you have an amazing group of professors at Seton Hill who are going to challenge you. They want only the best for your future. I can not stress enough as a graduate what the science department at Seton Hill means to me. Especially Mrs. Flowers who helped mold me into being the best forensic scientist I could be. Without the adversity faced in those challenging courses I wouldn't be where I am today. 

If anyone in the forensic science program has any questions please contact me through Mrs. Flowers, I will gladly lend an ear and speak my opinion. 

Why did you choose Seton Hill University? 

I began my collegiate journey at a community college in my hometown. I had originally started in a nursing program there while also playing soccer and trying to extend my competitive career beyond high school/travel soccer programs. Since that first school only offered two years of eligibility, I had to transfer. After some long discussions and time on the road with my family visiting schools, we decided that Seton Hill would be the best fit for me to progress academically and as a student-athlete. 

What made you want to study forensic science? 

I’ve always had a love for science in general, some background in psychology, and an understanding of crime. So the forensic science program really piqued my interest and I knew it would be something I could excel in as it matched my inquisitive mindset. At the end of the day, the stars lined up for me and to this day I believe I made the right choice in changing majors and starting a new path at a new school.