Mianna Molinari ’10 never spent time around guns – before coming to HWS, that is. Now, she can take apart, clean and fire a number of them. She’s even fired the weapon of choice of SWAT teams, the MP5. And, it was fully automatic.
It’s an education not many people get at college, but one that has helped her firm up her interest in forensics — all made possible with the help of an alum who is renowned in the field.
Molinari took forensic courses at HWS and knew she was interested in learning more about work in a crime lab. She went to The Salisbury Center for Career Services for help finding an internship and they contacted Dr. Lowell J. Levine ’59 on her behalf.
Levine is a forensic dentist and the director of the New York State Police Medicolegal Investigations Unit. He initially sent them a list of relevant contacts in Suffolk County (Molinari’s home county). However, while in a conference in Washington, D.C., he ran into someone from the Suffolk County Crime Lab and put in a good word for Molinari on the spot, even though he’d never met her personally. He reconnected with career services and asked that they have the student immediately follow up with the director of the lab and use his name.
She was quickly hired as one of four interns in the firearms unit, responsible for disassembling, cleaning and firing guns within the lab’s reference collection. Of the 1,700 firearms in the collection, she and her fellow interns managed to clean and make serviceable 700 of the handguns. “I’d never been around guns before at all,” she says. “In the interview they showed me some and they looked like plastic and metal so it was no big deal. The first day on the job was a gun safety course and I saw them up close and started to get nervous. Once we learned how to clean and take them apart, I got more comfortable around them; it lowered the fear.”
Knowing about firearms and how they work is just one small skill set in the firearms lab. Interns also learned more about how to analyze bullets and trajectories and properly process a crime scene pertaining to a shooting.
During her internship, Molinari and her peers were given the opportunity to work on a real piece of evidence. They were presented with a mattress and box spring and had to take it apart, photograph it, calculate trajectories and process it as a mini crime scene. The bed, it turned out, had been at the center of a gun battle between police attempting to serve a warrant and a suspect who opened fire on them.
“It took all day to process but it was actual evidence,” says Molinari, who says it was her favorite experience during the internship. “We got to take it apart and found bullets in the mattress and fragments in the box spring.”
In five weeks at the crime lab she became certain that she wants to pursue a career in forensics. “If I could work in every unit, I’d try to do so to see each and every one and decide where I’m the best fit,” she says. “But if I ultimately ended up in the firearms unit doing this type of work, I’d be content and fine and amazed with it.”