Karen (class of 2009)
Why did you choose to pursue a career in law?
I chose to pursue a career in law because during my time at Trent I discovered a true passion for the subject. I found it challenging and interesting and I consistently found myself excited to go to my law-related classes throughout the Forensic's program. In my second year, I had the opportunity to complete my mentorship placement with the Crown Attorney's office in my hometown. After seeing the law play out in the "real world", I decided that not only was it a subject that I enjoyed learning about, but that law was a field which would allow me to make a tangible contribution to my community. I really like the idea of pursuing a career that allows me to help others and which constantly presents me with new and unexpected challenges and law seemed to fit that bill perfectly.
What is your career goal?
My career goals aren't completely decided yet, but I have focused my legal studies on criminal law. Although I have always thought that I would like to ultimately end up working as a Crown Attorney, I have recently had the opportunity to do some criminal defence work and have enjoyed that experience quite a bit. Both avenues present unique challenges and I now think that I would like to spend some time in both areas of work in order to decide which I am best suited for. At the end of the day, I don't necessarily care about job titles, etc. as long as I am working as a lawyer at a job that I enjoy.
What have you done so far and what do you need to do in the future to achieve your goal?
I am currently completing my third and final year of law school after which I will undergo the licensing process with the Law Society of Upper Canada. This includes a period of articling under a qualified lawyer and passing the Bar exams in order to obtain my license to practice law. In order to gain experience in criminal law specifically, I have had to focus both my academic work and my extracurricular activities towards that goal. I have completed an internship with a criminal defence firm in Ottawa and have also been working with The Innocence Project reviewing claims of wrongful convictions and investigating evidence to support or refute these claims. Exposure to this type of work has allowed me to gain excellent experience in the field and given me the chance to apply concepts from class to real situations.
What advice can you offer to students considering a career in law?
My advice to students considering a career in law would be to do your research. Call up a lawyer and see if you can arrange an internship or a job-shadow. Find someone who's in law school and talk to them. Make sure its something you're really actually interested in because law school is a big investment in both time and money. Be prepared to work hard but don't let it consume you. Classes are important but so many of the experiences which I feel will be most beneficial to me once I graduate this year have not been in a classroom. Volunteer whenever you can. It not only provides you with great experience but also is a fantastic opportunity to network and build connections.
Aaron (class of 2008)
What have you been doing since your graduated from Trent? (Further schooling, internship, work)
After graduating from Trent Forensic Science, I joined the University of Toronto’s Master of Biotechnology graduate program. It was an intensive 24-month core science degree with an integrated Rotman business component. In short, it prepares students to act as business experts in the fields of medical biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and related technology and health sectors. From there, I interned at Hoffmann-La Roche, a global pharmaceutical company, as a Corporate Project Manager.
Tell us about your work.
I am currently working as a Marketing Associate at Hoffmann-La Roche’s Oncology division, where I have the opportunity to launch a new oncolytic agent; Zelboraf, a first-in-class small molecule BRAF inhibitor for the treatment of advanced and metastatic melanomas, the first true personalized healthcare medication in Oncology. This drug targets mutated copies of the BRAF gene (v-Raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1), present in 50% of melanomic lesions. This has been an extremely exciting opportunity for me, as the push for targeted, personalized therapies has been compounding over the past decade, and will continue to do so as constraints on healthcare funding and reimbursement continue to tighten.
As a marketer, I work to ensure that the drug will be launched on timeline, and with all necessary support materials and programs in place. This involves liaising closely with cross-functional teams here at Roche, as well as with external stakeholders such as physician key opinion leaders, patient advocacy groups, and government organizations.
What do you like most and least about your work?
I get to come to work every day and speak the scientific language I love, to make decisions that impact not only the government and healthcare system decision makers, but patients who are gearing up for the fight of their lives. This has provided me an added sense of purpose and direction, and given me an emotional connection to the brand that I support.
At first however, the transition from an academic/laboratory setting to a corporate environment was a bit jarring for me. Having been used to seeing a problem in a laboratory and doing my damnedest to immediately rectify it, I was utterly unprepared for the level of discussion and collaboration required to execute decisions in a corporate environment. This is still something I am working on.
How has a degree in FS prepared you for your career?
Trent’s Forensic Program is an incredibly valuable first step in your career. While still providing the core scientific expertise gained by all undergraduate science programs, you have exposure to areas of law, criminology and anthropology. If nothing else, these will have given you a chance to learn in an “outside-the-box” setting, where effective conversation and questioning skills reign supreme over checking the correct exam box. Take advantage of these opportunities, as I have found repeatedly in my career that huge benefits can be derived from being able to connect with people across varying disciplines. I guarantee that a Forensic Science degree is an excellent conversation starter at any networking event!
That said, at its core the Forensics program is still a solid foundation for fledgling scientists. I arrived at my Master’s program fully equipped for the laboratory and research endeavours that awaited me, and continue to surprise my pharmaceutical colleagues with my knowledge of DNA/RNA structure, activity and manipulation. For those who are eager to pursue future scientific studies or jobs, I strongly recommend the thesis program in 4th year. However, even without the thesis component, Trent offers a wide variety of opportunities to interact with and learn from thought leaders in many disciplines. Find a mentor that you click with and ask as many questions as you can (insert applause here for Dr. Saville, champion of mentors!).
What advice can you offer to prospective FS or current students?
I have two big pieces of advice that I wish someone had tossed my way;
Firstly, trust yourself. That little voice telling you, “this is/isn’t what I really want”, is an important one. Remember that everything you’ve learned and all the work that you have done will still represent valuable experience whether or not you follow the school/work path you always envisioned. It is extremely easy to look at the next steps of your colleagues and assume that’s all there is out there – this isn’t the case! Research your options, find something you’re passionate about and chase it. As mentioned above, the Forensic Science is an excellent base for a million different career paths; you simply have to stake a claim and show you mean it.
Finally, be prepared to fail occasionally. The Trent Forensics program attracts smart and savvy people who are conditioned to win. While this can be a commendable personality trait, life doesn't always work that way. I spent 6 months of my internship search bored and unemployed, watching my then-roommate head off to his slick pharmaceutical placement every morning. This was a difficult thing to do, particularly for a recent Forensics grad ready to take on the world! However, a certain humbleness will go a long way in your career, and when you do eventually hit that hurdle, do your best to learn from it and strategize on how to not let it happen again.
Vanessa (class of 2009)
Since you graduated with you M.Sc.F.S. what have you been doing?
After I graduated in 2009, I continued with an MSc in Pathology at the University of Western Ontario. I finished that program this summer, and am now employed as a supervisor and pathology scientist in the pathology department at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge.
Have you always known pathology was the career for you?
I didn't always know that pathology was the specific area I would pursue. While I was at Trent, the program offered a career panel night where different experts in forensic fields came and described their jobs. One of those professionals was a pathology assistant. I got in contact with him after that night, and he gave me more details about his job, and how to pursue that career. After that I knew that pathology was for me, and I haven't looked back since.
What has been the toughest hurdle you have had to overcome so far?
The biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome has been making the adjustment from student to supervisor. It was a big change to go from the person asking all the questions, to being the person people look to for answers. The learning curve was tough, and there are always more questions, but it’s getting easier as I go.
Describe a typical work day.
A typical work day starts with assessing my cases for the day, and prioritizing them according to cancerous, tissue type, and proper fixation times. I describe, dissect, and cut tissue blocks from each organ that I receive from surgery, and those blocks get made into slides. My description and those slides are what a pathologist uses to make a diagnosis. I also often have meetings for the laboratory as a whole, and specifically for my department. We discuss protocol changes, laboratory initiatives, and any issues that arise in the workplace.
What advice would you like to offer potential and current forensic science students?
Once you know what field of work you want to be in, my advice is to make as many contacts in that field as you possibly can while you’re still in school. It is always helpful to have someone to talk to that knows the career path you’re after. They can guide you through smart career choices, and perhaps even provide some references along the way.
Mackenzie (class of 2008)
The RCMP immediately formed a strong partnership with the Trent Forensic Science Program. In effect, I was privy to conducting the research for my undergraduate thesis with the RCMP’s Forensic Identification unit in Red Deer Alberta. The exposure opened my eyes to the RCMP family and what the Force has to offer.
Ultimately, having had such a positive experience allowed me to focus my drive towards a career in policing with the RCMP. The choice will allow me to work with a diverse group of people and communities, to see and experience a large portion of our Country and abroad, while doing work I truly enjoy.
What is a typical work day like for you?
The uncertainty that comes with any day of policing is what drew me to the career. I feel fortunate, to have worked my way into a career nearly impermeable to stagnancy. A police officer’s duties and responsibilities are to those we serve within our communities. We are expected to respond to a multitude of different calls for service, to form partnerships with our local organizations and a variety of other diverse responsibilities in between.
Daily, I draw upon skills learned from my years spent at Trent, whether investigating a suspicious death, to obtaining Judicial Authorizations for dynamic, large scale investigations. The career of a police officer, in my humble opinion is one which albeit can be frustrating, but is by large rewarding and meaningful.
What has been the biggest career challenge you have faced so far?
At times, due to the variety of avenues available in a National police force, one can become overwhelmed with the variety of career options available. Having entered the RCMP, I was focused solely on working towards a career in Forensic Identification. However, I find we are exposed daily to a slew of different opportunities, I would have never conceived prior to working as a general duties member. I often struggle, trying to determine the most interesting and rewarding path to pursue next, which admittedly can be an enviable, but nonetheless a career challenge in itself.
Looking back at your four years at Trent in the FS program, what is the most important thing you learned?
I have learned it is important to seize the opportunities, which will present themselves during your stay. It is rare that you will be surrounded by such an impressive number of highly respected scholars and employers in your future respective careers. Do everything to establish contacts, and draw from the experience and knowledge of those around you.
What advice would you like to offer to perspective and current forensic science students?
I can not emphasize the multitude of opportunities that will present themselves, having completed such a multi-faceted and respected program. The time you will spend at Trent, not only within the classroom, but living University life itself, will mold you into highly functioning and marketable members of society.
To those of you already in the program, take pride in what you have accomplished thus far, and enjoy every minute of the experience as you will build lifelong contacts, skills and memories. To anyone considering the program, take solace knowing that many, who have come before you, have had exceptional experiences both at Trent, and specifically the Forensic Science Program.
Alicia (class of 2011)
You are the most recent graduate on this alumni page and therefore your time at Trent is still really fresh in your mind; what did you like most and least about your forensic science program experience?
The best thing about the Trent Forensic Science Program is the sense of community it inspires. Such a unique group of students form friendships while learning basic forensic techniques in our FRSC 1000 course. The diversity of our class was encouraged throughout all four years of the program, as our professors and mentors offered opportunities that appealed to our individual passions. I was able to pursue my interest in molecular biology, while others focused on toxicology, entomology, wildlife forensics, on-scene techniques, etc. We learned from each other’s enthusiasm, and slowly shaped our understanding of the multi-disciplinary field of forensic science. A classmate, faculty or staff member could always be counted on for support and encouragement. When the stress began to pile up, we’d organize a group-study for an upcoming exam or (more commonly) hit the town for a Forensic Science Society night out. Even post-graduation, we continue to be unified through our program bond.
What did I like the least about the program? Probably our Chromatography class… it was so much work for me! Because our program is comprehensive, we take a variety of different courses that cross into several disciplines. Everyone has one class that you consider to be your nemesis, and I’ve never been much of a chemist. Thank you to everyone who helped me get my head around the topic!
What are you doing now?
Upon graduation from by BSc.FS, I took a job offer back home at the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute. We are focused on patient-centered research for disease prevention, early detection and image-guided treatment, specifically working to optimize molecular diagnostic technologies using MRI, PET-CT, etc. Just like at Trent, I’m a part of a multi-disciplinary team. I’m learning a lot about the “business of science”, and am adding to my skill set daily.
What is your career goal?
BIG DREAM: It is my long-term personal and professional goal to contribute to the expansion of medical genetics resources in rural and isolated communities of Ontario.
I hope to be a community resource as a genetic counsellor, helping people understand and cope with inherited medical conditions. I am enthusiastic about teaching scientific concepts and am drawn to a client-centered profession. I learned these personal strengths through research, work, and extracurricular experiences as a Trent Forensics student.
What do you need to do to achieve that goal?
I’ve been accepted to the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics, a Master of Science degree at Sarah Lawrence College in New York; I’ll begin my studies in September 2012. Once the two-year in-class and clinical training is complete, I can write my qualification exams to become certified and begin practicing. After gaining work experience (maybe overseas?), I hope to return to my community in Northern Ontario and expand our medical genetics program. Our isolated communities require direct access to genetic counselling to reflect a complete and contemporary healthcare system.
What do you want to say to perspective and current forensic science students?
Have fun and learn from each other! Look forward to seeing your peers at conferences or out in the field later in life. Take an active role in every class debate, group assignment, or information-sharing opportunity. The best education is through conversation.
Brynn (class of 2009)
What have you been doing since you graduated from the FS program at Trent?
The summer after I finished the program, I worked as a summer student for Quinte Crime Stoppers. I was the office administration assistant, so I took tips, forwarded them to the proper police force, and organized the annual golf tournament among other duties.
After that summer, I moved to Ottawa to start my Master's of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. I will explain this program later on in the following question. When I completed the program, I got a job at Elizabeth Fry Society's JF Norwood House, a residential housing for women coming out of prison, as a residential support worker. I also am working at the Salvation Army's Correctional and Justice Services as a Caseworker for the Adult Pre-Charge Diversion Program.
Tell us about the Master's of Criminology program.
At the University of Ottawa, there are two different Master's of Criminology programs, a MA (Master's of Arts) and MCA (Master's of Criminology Applied). The MA program involves course work as well as a full thesis; meanwhile the MCA program involves course work, placements and a major research paper. I was enrolled in the MCA program. During the entire program, I worked as a Teaching Assistant for a number of different undergraduate courses.
In my first year I did course work as well as a 360 hour placement over the course of 8 months. I completed my placement with the Salvation Army's Correctional and Justice Services Adult Pre-Charge Diversion Program in the Ottawa Courthouse (which is my full-time job now, as I was hired on when I finished my master's). I completed the job very much as I doing now as a caseworker during my placement. We also run the John School and the Sex Trade Education Program from our office.
My second year was dedicated to 360 hours of placement in 4 months, as well as our major research paper. I completed my second placement at the Royal Ottawa Hospital with Dr. Fedoroff, Director of the Sexual Behaviours Clinic at the ROH. In this placement, I worked directly in the treatment and rehabilitation of sex offenders from a clinical perspective. I also got to attend conferences and got to network with experts in the field.
After my placement, it was time to focus specifically on my major research paper. In this I looked at how judges rationalize their decisions when sentencing sex offenders with dangerous offenders when expert witnesses disagree in their testimony. I examined this topic from a qualitative approach and analyzed reasons for judgement transcripts. I then completed my thesis at the end of August and am waiting to officially graduate on October 30, 2011.
How has your FS degree helped you?
I feel that the degree helped a lot with analytical thinking in my master's program. As well, with the ability to complete an undergraduate thesis it allowed for me to be prepared and have an understanding of what would be needed in my master's level thesis. I also feel that when working in a clinical field, the science and law part of my degree helped a lot to understand the scientific issues in the patients, as well as the law constraints on them. I also know that for where I want my career to eventually lead, my forensic science degree is extremely important in the concepts of crime scene analysis.
How does your work match your personality?
Through my master's program, my values and ideals have definitely grown and become a lot more engrained. I believe in the reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders over the incarceration. I feel that both of my positions at the Elizabeth Fry Society and the Salvation Army greatly reflect these issues as a big part of both of these positions allow me to help criminalized individuals overcome this label and work reintegrating into society or rehabilitating themselves so they do not commit more crimes.
What advice can you offer to potential or current FS students?
It is important for them to figure out what they want to do with their degree and go for it. The Forensic Science degree is very interdisciplinary and thus allows many different avenues to lead from it. I think an important point is that you can do a lot with the degree and people should not feel constrained specifically in the science field, because they have a science background.
I also think if you want to go on to a Master's program, it is important to really look into the program and make sure it is exactly what you want. Yes, a Master's program is half the time a Bachelor's takes, but it is a lot more work and feels like it is significantly longer. Therefore, it is important to really know what exactly you are getting into before pursuing it.
Being in the Forensic Program at Trent University was an amazing opportunity for me and I think current students should value the experience. Trust me, lots of people do not get the experience we did through the program and it is a degree that stands out from the rest and makes people take a second look at you, because it is different. I also think you should utilize your professors and teachers while you are there, as they have lots of experience in the field and can help you network with other individuals.