NYS Police, UAlbany Bring New Forensic Investigation Center School to Campus

Students view a presentation inside ETEC during an FIC workshop.

By Fiona Hernandez

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 15, 2022) – A new partnership between the New York State Police (NYSP) and local higher education institutions, including the University at Albany, is offering college students an opportunity to meet and learn from forensic scientists. 

The Forensic Investigation Center (FIC) School launched this semester and is open to undergraduate and graduate students from UAlbany, The College of Saint Rose and Hudson Valley Community College. 

Student participants are meeting three times this semester. Each session offers presentations on different areas related to forensic science, and networking opportunities with forensic professionals. 

The NYSP Crime Laboratory created the school through the leadership of Ray Wickenheiser, director of the New York State Police Crime Lab System, and Lori Valentin, director of professional development and continuing education at the College of St. Rose.

“The idea behind FIC is not only to teach interested students about forensic science, but also to offer them the education and mentorship that is needed to succeed,” said Wickenheiser. “As this is our pilot year, we plan to assess and adjust for future classes based on feedback from students.”

A Focus on Toxicology 

UAlbany recently hosted the FIC’s second session at ETEC, focusing on toxicology and seized drugs. It followed the first class, which took place at the College of Saint Rose and was an overview of the NYSP Crime Laboratory System. A third and final session is scheduled at the NYSP Forensic Investigation Center this month.

The ETEC session started with a presentation from Amanda Cadau, supervisor of forensic services at the NYS Police, with a focus on toxicology. The second speaker was Claire Muro, a UAlbany alum with a PhD in analytical chemistry and forensic scientist who works in the Seized Drugs section at the NYSP Forensic Investigation Center. 

After the presentations, students were teamed with a mentor to engage in their work, and learn about how they entered the field. 

Alexis Weber, a graduate student in UAlbany’s Department of Chemistry, helped facilitate the event. She believes the FIC will assist students as they prepare for careers after graduation.

“One of these connections can make a world of difference,” Weber said. “I found someone to help mentor me throughout my academic journey and post-graduate career and hope that students in the FIC will make similar connections through this experience.”

Bailey Hoplight is a first-year graduate student at UAlbany studying analytical chemistry. 

“I think, as a student, it is important to get exposed to potential career paths and real people that are working in the field that you are interested in,” she said. “This program allows for personal connections to be made, while getting insider information about the forensic field from professionals. 

Mónica Ventura is a UAlbany Ph.D. student studying chemistry, with a research focus on analytical/forensic chemistry. 

“I think the FIC school is important because it allows a connection between students/academics and forensic scientists, which we might not have had before,” she said. “The networking section at the end of every lecture is my favorite part about the program, as it allows us to learn more and ask specific questions about working in a state crime lab.” 

Students will earn an FIC certificate of completion from the NYSP after attending at least two of the in-person sessions and participating in 30 minutes of virtual mentoring.