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Forensic Science Graduate Works in Toxicology Division at MolecularDx

Brittany McConnell earned her forensic science degree (with criminal justice minor) from Seton Hill in 2019. We caught up with Brittany recently to see how things are going.

How soon after graduating did you find a job in your field? 

I graduated from Seton Hill in May 2019 and in July 2019 I started working for an analytical laboratory to gain additional lab experience.  I primarily worked in elemental analysis of metals using ICP-OES instrumentation.  The skills and experience I gained from my first job helped me obtain my current position with MolecularDx, which I started in January of 2020.  

What is MolecularDx?

MolecularDx is a laboratory located in Windber, Pa., with divisions in genomics and toxicology. The Genomics Division works in areas like human identification and pharmacogenomics (how a person’s genetic makeup affects their response to medications). Toxicology works in postmortem testing and other forensic casework, as well as clinical medication monitoring. We also have a drug chemistry lab for analysis of seized drugs. 

What do you do there?

I work as a forensic laboratory technician in the Toxicology Division. As a member of the ‘Tox Team,’ I work on forensic and clinical toxicology cases. My day-to-day work includes toxicology testing for postmortem cases, DUI/DUID offenses, and medication monitoring for clinical drugs.

"The incorporation of mock casework into our forensic science curriculum helped prepare me for testing as part of investigations, where chain of custody and proper sample handling is key." 

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

The incorporation of mock casework into our forensic science curriculum helped prepare me for testing as part of investigations, where chain of custody and proper sample handling is key.  My many chemistry and biology courses also helped prepare me for working in a laboratory where I test biological samples, prepare reagent solutions, and troubleshoot and maintain multiple instrument systems. These include LC-MS/MS, GC-FID and ELISA. Having Barbara Flowers as an advisor and a professor in the Forensic Science Program helped prepare me for entering the field. She provided insight and knowledge from her experience working as a forensic scientist, and was always there to answer any questions.

Why did you choose Seton Hill for your undergraduate degree?

Seton Hill was a little over an hour from my hometown. I could be ‘on my own’ yet still return home if I needed to.  Attending a small school allowed my classes to be more hands-on. I felt like I could be more engaged in courses with smaller class sizes.  I was also impressed by the many courses offered by Seton Hill that were dedicated to forensic science.

What made you want to major in forensic science? 

Growing up I loved watching criminal investigation shows with my family. It was always something I was really interested in and wanted to learn more about.  When I was in high school I had to do a project on an ‘interesting job field’ for a Career Workshop class.  I chose to make the project about forensics. That’s when I realized I wanted to become a forensic scientist. 

Do you have any advice for students looking to get into a forensic science career? 

Be prepared for a variety of coursework and training as there is a wide array of forensic disciplines that you can get into.  Forensic science is ever-changing and it is important to stay up to date on current techniques and analyses. Don’t take the coursework for granted as forensic science in the real world is far more in-depth than what you see on TV.  But most importantly, love what you do and follow a field you are passionate about.