Lisa Gendron '11 was a junior at Emmanuel College in 2009, majoring in chemistry with a concentration in forensic science, when the new Maureen Murphy Wilkens Science Center opened on campus.
"The labs were so nice. So much nicer than what we had," she said referring to the science classrooms located in Marian Hall above the main dining room, which she admitted, "always smelled a little bit like lunch."
Gendron is back in the Wilkens Science Center laboratories this spring - this time, as an instructor. She was invited by Professor of Chemistry and Acting Department Chair Faina Ryvkin to teach CHEM1117 Forensic Chemistry lab and help Emmanuel students better understand the role scientists play in the criminal justice system.
A student herself, Gendron is currently in her final semester of the M.S. in Forensic Science program at Pace University in New York City. She was happy to find that the teaching position at Emmanuel fit into her class schedule and also fulfilled the internship requirements for her graduate program.
The two-year program, she said, is something she felt well-prepared for by her Emmanuel education, but that she's enjoyed delving deeper into new areas of study.
"Pace has more of a general forensic science program," Gendron said, noting the curriculum includes principles of chemistry, biology and physics. "My professors at Emmanuel taught me a lot about the drug and toxicology aspects of forensics, but I've learned a lot more about DNA and the biology aspects. That's been really interesting."
Another highlight of the program is that the majority of her courses are held in the evening, and therefore taught by working professionals who have day jobs in the field, ranging from Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, to personnel from the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the New York Police Department.
Gendron is now passing this valuable training along to Emmanuel students. While she was given a lab manual to follow, she has been able to develop her own lessons, incorporating a lot of what she has learned at the graduate level.
For one class, she staged a crime scene in one of the Wilkens Science Center breakout rooms.
"I flipped over some furniture, placed some hairs at the scene, made some tool marks that they had to examine under microscopes and left a fingerprint they had to dust for," she said. "Students also used infrared spectroscopy to analyze some samples they found."
Another lab involved identifying fingerprint patterns by inking their own fingers, making a print on a white balloon and then blowing up the balloon to see the arches, loops and whorls at a much larger size.
Along with teaching the Forensic Chemistry lab, she is assisting Associate Professor of Chemistry Aren Gerdon in his Chemistry of Fire and Explosives course. She has enjoyed having the opportunity to teach this semester, and noted she even considered pursuing it as a career while an undergrad.
"I've really enjoyed watching them make connections and develop an understanding for the material," she said.
In addition to chemistry, Gendron has been able to offer students advice about life after Emmanuel.
"They have a lot of questions!" she said. "About anything from applying to graduate school and internships, to writing a cover letter. I hope I'm doing a good job answering them."
Gendron's ultimate goal, though, is to work in a laboratory. Prior to accepting the spring teaching position at Emmanuel, she worked in the claims lab at Unilever and, after graduating in May, will take her next big step forward - she's been accepted to the summer internship program at the Division of Scientific Services in the State of Connecticut's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.