Graduating student Marah Carney found an unexpected passion during her time at Emporia State University.
Carney is graduating on May 13 with her master’s of science in forensic science. She also earned her bachelor of science degree from Emporia State in 2014. When Carney began her journey at ESU, she aimed to go to medical school, but through hands-on research with Dr. Melissa Bailey, associate professor of Biological Sciences, she found another passion.
“I had been working with Dr. Bailey in her research lab and she told me that she was going to start up this program (Forensic Science) and it was sounding really exciting and it was starting to sound like something I could do,” Carney said. “It sounded like an interesting route to take. It really did seem like it was going to be a better fit for me. So, I applied and got into the program and I haven’t regretted it. It’s been exactly what I’ve wanted to do.”
Carney met Dr. Bailey when the university opened the cadaver lab in 2012, she said, which led her to conducting research of her own — one of the aspects that makes ESU unique, undergraduate research.
“There was a student who was working on a behavioral study and another student who was working on a birth defects study,” Carney said. “So, I picked up a study in diabetes research and birth defects. I was actually measuring fertility in mice with diabetes. Most of my research in undergrad dealt with birth defects research and my mouse studies.”
Having the opportunity to perform undergraduate research gave Carney a head start in her career, setting her apart, she said.
“I have experience now producing some scientific literature and I have some experience troubleshooting a project so as an undergrad, that helped getting into that early,” she added.
In summer of 2016, Carney performed an internship at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory. She spent the summer categorizing and characterizing the ammunition closet.
“Which ended up being a lot of ammunition. I went through each of the boxes, took samples out and noted the characteristics and created a database,” she said. “All of the information for that round of ammunition populates in their report. If they need to use it in a case, it’s right there.”
Carney’s internship ultimately led her to land a job, which she has waiting for her this summer. She will be working at the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center in June as a Forensic Firearms Examiner. There, she will be doing a variety of firearm-related tasks after a two-year training period.
“I will be firing firearms for test fires to compare to something that might be found at the crime scene to something that was created in the lab,” she said. “There’s different characteristics in the rifling striations on a bullet and also different impressions that are stamped on the headstamp that we look at.”
Carney also will be performing serial number restoration on firearms, she added.
“If a firearm comes into the lab with a serial number filed off there are methods a forensic scientist uses to recover that serial number,” she said.
Carney’s pending career is beyond what she could have dreamed, she said. The flexibility of the Forensic Science program allowed Carney to explore her interests. She asserted that the most unique part of the program is students aren’t required to specialize — the electives and the research becomes their specialization. Classes also are taught by professionals in the field, she added, another thing that makes ESU’s program unique.
“When I started the program, I was leaning more to going into toxicology. I never dreamed of doing forensic firearms,” she said. “We don’t focus on that on our program. There is an elective class for firearms identifications but our program doesn’t have that as an emphasis...our program doesn’t really have any emphasis — they want to give you a large background, which is really great.”
Carney said she chose ESU because she’s from Emporia, but also for the unique opportunities it offers — and the university opened doors for her she never imagined.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be where I’m at today if it weren’t for Emporia State University. The people, the places I’ve been because of Emporia State, the experiences I’ve had in the science department — I don’t think I would have gotten that anywhere else,” she said.