DNA and Forensic Science with NYSP – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

DNA and Forensic Science with NYSP

For Therese Mandracchia ’19, this summer’s internship at the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center (FIC) gave her a window into her “dream job.”

A biochemistry major and soon-to-be law and society minor, she was initially “attracted to the internship because my grandfather worked in this field as well as forensic pathology, and I was always fascinated with it on crime shows.”

Prior to her hire, Mandracchia underwent an extensive background check that included a polygraph test; a drug test; interviews with friends, family and neighbors; and training to cope with the crimes investigated at the FIC. Along with this rigorous vetting process, her coursework gave her a strong basis to thrive in an environment where science meets criminal justice.

“Therese is a bright, articulate, pleasant young woman who is a credit to HWS,” says Dr. Lowell J. Levine ’59, a forensic odontologist and director of the New York State Police Medicolegal Investigations Unit, who guided Mandracchia. “I suggested she try the DNA area as that is becoming more and more prominent and is the future of cutting edge research.”

Located at the NYSP Crime Laboratory System headquarters in Albany, the FIC offers a full range of forensic science services, including the state’s DNA databank. There, Mandracchia assisted researchers in the lab, making templates for DNA donors, shadowing lab workers and sterilizing equipment and work surfaces — in “the proper attire,” she notes, which includes scrubs, lab coat, hair net, gloves and face mask.

“I am always very excited to see the scientists in action in the lab and witness the machines they use for DNA extractions and protocols they must follow on a daily basis to prevent any contamination,” says Mandracchia, who is also a record-breaking diver on the Herons swimming and diving team.

An internship like this one, Levine says, will hold Mandracchia in good stead as she looks toward a career in the field. “It’s a great hook for graduate programs, where interviewers ask about internship experience, and a master’s degree is really needed to get anywhere in the forensic field,” he explains.

And that, Mandracchia says, is now part of her future plans. “This internship has solidified my decision to become a forensic scientist at a lab such as this one,” she says.

In 2015, Sasha Borenstein ’14, who was also mentored by Levine, joined the Los Angeles Police Department, bringing her one step closer to her long-term goal of becoming a homicide investigator.

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