What prompted you to pursue a career based in forensic science?
When I was an undergraduate student, I heard a lecture from a noted forensic expert discussing the Jeffrey Dahmer case. It was very intriguing and encompassed all of the aspects of a career that I thought would utilize a strong scientific background and problem solving. I decided to pursue the area of forensic science in graduate school, where I worked directly with Steve Drexler at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. He introduced me to the field of trace evidence, which combines microscopy and chemistry to solve the most difficult problems. From that point, I became completely engrossed in not only the area of criminal forensic work, but how forensic science can be utilized to solve industry-related problems.
What do you enjoy most about working at Gateway Analytical?
The thing I enjoy most about Gateway Analytical is the support structure that surrounds the company. It gives me and my staff the ability to pursue areas that maximize our experience, enabling an atmosphere to grow professionally and personally. Each member of the staff at Gateway has their own unique qualities, and the group works very well as a team, providing support to each other as we grow.
What do you consider your most challenging client project?
Over the years, I have worked on some very challenging projects— many have come to resolution, others have not. The latter is what I consider as the most challenging, because they are not easily forgotten. For instance, I was involved in a homicide case several years ago that revolved around the death of several children. A mysterious blue substance was found throughout the crime scene. Although I was able to determine the composition of the material, a definitive identification of the source was never determined. To this day, when I see a compound or material that looks like that substance, I take a sample and examine it in the lab. Although the case was resolved several years ago, the identification of that substance has always been on my mind.
What’s the proudest moment in your career thus far?
The proudest moment of my career was my first testimony where I was qualified as an expert in the area of trace evidence. Looking back on my undergraduate studies, I enjoyed science but was never sure how I could apply it to a career that offered variety, discipline and a solid scientific understanding of forensic science. That first time on the witness stand, explaining the concepts of what I did and its significance to other people’s lives, was a culminating moment of realization for me and certainly the proudest in my career.
I site my favorite quote at almost every lecture I give and feel it applies not only to forensic science, but to problem solving in general.
Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as silent witness against him. Not even his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibers from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool marks he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects — all of these bear mute witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong; it cannot perjure itself; it cannot be wholly absent – only its interpretation can err. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.
Harris v. United States, 331 US 145, 1947
My favorite pastime is spending time with my family. For the last 11 years, I have been lucky enough to do everything from playing sports and board games to telling bedtime stories. In my mind, no matter how many professional accomplishments a person makes, the time they spend with their children is what matters most.