The Charger Blog

Forensic Science Students Present Innovative Research at Prestigious Conference

More than a dozen students were chosen to present their faculty-mentored research at the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists Annual Meeting, and several Chargers were recognized for their impactful work and dedication to the field of forensic science.

December 23, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of students presenting their research
Savannah Brown ’22 M.S. (left) and Gabrielle Messe ’22 M.S. present their research.

Savannah Brown ’22 M.S. been working on two ongoing research projects. She recently had the opportunity to share her work with leaders and professionals in the field of forensic science, with her innovative work being recognized.

A candidate in the University’s forensic science graduate program, Brown presented the research she has done as part of her master’s thesis and her work as a graduate assistant as part of the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists (NEAFS) Annual Meeting.

The recipient of the “Best Poster Presentation – Graduate” award for her thesis research, Brown has been working under the mentorship of Koby Kizzire, Ph.D., an assistant professor of forensic science, studying the impurity profiles produced by lefetamine, a schedule IV drug.

“By synthesizing these analogs, or designer drugs, I hope to provide forensic laboratories and law enforcement with analytical information that will assist them in future investigations involving these compounds,” explains Brown. “My project was different than many of the other student poster presentations due to its heavy focus on organic synthesis, and it was heartwarming to have so much interest in my project. Receiving this award greatly improved my confidence in my own ability to effectively communicate my research and its importance.”

Image of Savannah Brown ’22 M.S. with an award
Savannah Brown ’22 M.S. was recognized at the conference.
‘The great research that is being done’

The other research project Brown has been part of, which she presented with classmate Gabrielle Messe ’22 M.S., investigates the application of Particle Correlated Raman Spectroscopy (PCRS) for forensic soil examination. Brown and Messe also recently presented their work at the Eastern Analytical Symposium.

“The NEAFS annual meeting was my first real exposure to a professional meeting, and it was a great experience,” said Brown. “Not only was I able to present my own research to the attendees, but I was also introduced to some fascinating research being done by students at various other universities. It is especially important to stay educated on the advancements constantly being made in a field as actively advancing as forensic science.”

Brown was among the more than a dozen University of New Haven students who gave oral and poster presentations at the conference. Award recipients also included Madison Carter ’22 M.S., who earned the “Best Oral Presentation - Graduate" award. Presenters included Claire Glynn, Ph.D., an associate professor of forensic science at the University, who discussed forensic genetic genealogy.

“I am incredibly proud of all the students who presented at the NEAFS conference,” said Brooke Kammrath, Ph.D., D-ABC, a forensic science professor at the University. “They all did outstanding jobs communicating the great research that is being done in the Forensic Science Department at the University. Winning three student awards at a prestigious professional conference is a wonderful recognition of the students’ individual abilities and ambitions as well as the quality of their research.”

‘Their passion is truly infectious’

For Cody Silverman ’22, a forensic science major, attending the NEAFS annual meeting wasn’t just an “invaluable experience,” it also enabled him to accept the Carol De Forest Student Research Grant in person. A continuation of his Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program research, Silverman’s work focuses on developing a Raman spectroscopy-based pre-screening tool for bones and teeth.

Working under the mentorship of Angie Ambers, Ph.D., and Dr. Kammrath, he used beef bones to focus on optimizing Raman spectroscopy parameters to effectively analyze bone. Next, he will section the bone and use Raman spectroscopy to observe the sections. This spring, he will conduct DNA analysis of them.

Image of Cody Silverman '22 preparing beef bone as part of his project
Cody Silverman ’22 preparing beef bone as part of his project.

“The grant will enable me to conduct research without a financial burden,” said Silverman. “I would not be able to conduct my research without it. I’m so thankful that NEAFS has enabled me to continue research that I believe has the potential to change the way we perform DNA analysis of bone.”

Silverman, who hopes to earn a doctorate in chemistry and pursue a career in forensic toxicology with the Drug Enforcement Administration and in academia, says he is grateful for the research experience he has had at the University and the opportunities to attend academic conferences.

“Studying at such an amazing and prestigious university has given me many great opportunities,” he said. “Without the help from my mentors and the resources the University has to offer, I would not have been able to attend these conferences and win these awards.

“The best part about studying forensic science at the University has been the passion of the professors, especially my research mentors Dr. Kammrath and Dr. Ambers,” he continued. “Their passion is truly infectious, and it further invigorates my drive to help our forensic science community and to do my part in keeping the world safe.”

‘I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity’

Beth Saucier Goodspeed ’98, who earned her bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the University, was also recognized at the NEAFS annual meeting, earning the Meritorious Service Award. The registration chair for NEAFS, Goodspeed says the Board of Directors made sure she did not find out about the award ahead of the conference.

“I was – and still am – completely shocked,” she said. “Receiving this award really means the world to me, and I am so honored. I can’t believe I am on the same list as the other forensic scientists who received this award before me. I look up to each and every one of them, and to be on that same list is an honor.”

Image of Cody Silverman ’22
Cody Silverman ’22.

A forensic scientist within the Criminalistics Unit of the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, her responsibilities include serving as the supervisor in charge of training new analysts.

“The education I received at the University of New Haven was top notch,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my education, I know that I would not be where I am today. The courses that I took at the University really prepared me for the work I actively perform as a forensic scientist. Attending the University of New Haven still is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.”

Brown, the forensic science graduate student, is looking forward to beginning her career in the field. She, too, says she is grateful for the support and the experience she has had at the University.

“The faculty are all very supportive,” she said. “Being able to work so closely with, and learn from, faculty members who have such extensive experience in forensic laboratories across the U.S. and abroad has provided me with invaluable insight to the field.”