Meet The 2021 ISHI Student Ambassadors

Tara Luther, Promega

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We know that it takes a special kind of person to choose forensic science as a career, and this year, we’d like to recognize a few of the students who are making a difference in the field. We’re excited to introduce this year's ISHI Ambassadors! These students are all pursuing degrees in the field of forensics. They will be participating in this year’s 32nd International Symposium on Human Identification in Orlando. Follow Olivia, Nidhi, Amber, and Haley on social media as they share highlights from the ISHI workshops, presentations, and poster sessions. We’ll also hear about the fun moments in between the scientific sessions including the Welcome and Wednesday Night Events. We look forward to seeing the meeting through their eyes, and learning more about their research and career aspirations.

Photo Credit: The University of South Alabama

Olivia McCarter

Anthropology Major with a focus in Biological Anthropology, University of South Alabama

Like many people my age who are in school for a forensic science career, I grew up watching TV shows that portrayed these characters who were important members of the forensic science community. At the age of thirteen, I decided that I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist, which I am in school for now. When I was eighteen, I got an internship to do forensic investigative genealogy with two pioneers in the fields--Anthony and Lee Redgrave. I was on a team that identified a man that washed up in the Missouri River in 1979 back in April of 2020. I was so taken aback by my emotions about this man whom I had never met and what had happened to him--and I realized that this was one of the greatest things I will ever do in my life. We gave this man back to his awaiting family, who had loved him and had been missing him. The moment that we solved that case , I knew that I was born to work forensic science. After I get my PHD in forensic anthropology, I want to work for law enforcement, either at a state crime lab or the FBI, to help identify the 40,000 unidentified remains in the United States.

Attending ISHI will be a great opportunity for me to learn from different workshops, hear different presentations, and show everyone from my own presentation that I have a place in the forensic science community. I expect that attending ISHI will have a positive impact on my career growth, as I can meet people from all over the world and show them what I can do.

Follow Olivia on Instagram, Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Nidhi Sheth

Center for Computational and Integrative Biology/ Forensic Science, Rutgers University

At a young age, I decided to pursue a career in criminology after being inspired by my grandfather, a renowned criminal lawyer in Gujarat, India. Hearing stories about his most challenging and convoluted cases captivated me and profoundly influenced my decision to pursue a career in forensic science. To become proficient in the fundamental technological aspects of the field, I pursued a B.S. in Pharmacy from Nirma University, India. Concurrently, I pursued extracurricular social activism, and I was selected as the Gujarat State Representative to present my views on “Preventing Crime Against Women” at the Indian Student Parliament to an audience of over 80,000 people. I opened the event with a discussion on the importance of implementing new educational policies to end the disparity between men and women in the eyes of India’s justice system. This experience cemented my commitment to criminal justice, science, and higher education.

Receiving recognition for a job well done is not what matters to me: I believe working in this field is about securing justice for the voiceless. While attending the ISHI conference, I will discuss with attendees the incredible potential associated with single-cell pipelines for solving complex DNA mixture problems. This vein of research could eventually help the forensic science community tackle the interpretation and inference of complex mixture samples and the activity-level propositions thereof. Presenting my work and engaging with the forensic science community at ISHI will provide me an incredible platform to collaborate with practitioners and researchers in the field of DNA analysis.

Follow Nidhi on Instagram, Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Amber Vandepoele

Biochemistry BS and Forensic Science BS, Syracuse University

My interest in forensic science began when I took my first forensic science course in high school. From there, I searched for a university that would allow me to explore my interest in forensic science while also providing me with a rigorous scientific course load. After learning about the groundbreaking research at Syracuse University's Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute and its partnerships with leading companies and agencies in the field, I knew it was where I would be able to grow and develop the skills needed for a career in forensic science. During my first semester at Syracuse, I joined Dr. Marciano’s bioforensics lab on campus, the first freshman to do so. Through three years of bioforensics research, I have discovered my passion for forensic science and specifically DNA analysis. Through a career as a DNA Analyst, I will be able to combine my love for science and passion for justice while continuing to learn, teach others, and work through complex problems. I hope to use my knowledge and skills to provide unbiased analysis of evidence which will help seek justice and provide comfort for victims and families. Simultaneously, I hope to foster the interest of women, BIPOC students, and other underrepresented and marginalized groups in STEM and empower them in their pursuit of academic and professional careers in STEM.

Participating in ISHI will be a great opportunity to build on my academic knowledge, further pursue my passion for forensic science, and learn from practicing scientists and professionals in the field. I hope to gain more knowledge of the field by attending workshops and panels, and thus working towards my goal to provide and improve global justice. I expect to gain valuable insight from professionals that can be incorporated into both my research and overall career path. Also, I plan to present my research at ISHI and grow more comfortable with public speaking through a poster presentation of my work. Practicing scientists can provide valuable insight on my research project and discussions can allow new research ideas to emerge.

Follow Amber on Instagram, Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Haley Falling

Master of Science in Forensic Science, Towson University

My undergraduate coursework in forensic science challenged and inspired me as I learned the ropes of drug chemistry, genetics, and crime scene processing. Similarly, the liberal arts education I was receiving challenged and inspired inspired my core beliefs, particularly in regard to my education on human dignity. The understanding that there is intrinsic, undeniable dignity found within each person informed my undergraduate experience, as well as my approach to forensic science; every attempt on a human life was an attempt to disregard the dignity and humanity found within that person. Therefore, I found that forensic science not only served the objectives of criminal justice, it served justice itself. Forensic science confirms the value of a life by simply seeking the truth.

I plan to attend the 2021 ISHI at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, where I hope to gain further insight into the field of forensic DNA analysis from our nation’s leading scholars and professionals. I also hope to gain a larger network of colleagues at ISHI so that I may continue to learn and build relationships with others who are passionate about forensic DNA technologies. I plan to use my participation experience at ISHI as a catalyst for other graduate students to attend forensic science conferences by sharing my experiences with my fellow classmates and with other young professionals and students via social media.

Follow Haley on Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn.