Meet Carey Hall, a latent print examiner working for the Minnesota State Crime Lab (MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension). She is also a member of our LinkedIn group (Association of Women in Forensic Science, Inc). As always, we feature women who work in various forensic science specialties. Read the interview below and get inspired!
What is your profession?
I am a latent print examiner for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, in Saint Paul. I process and examine evidence recovered from crime scenes for the presence of latent prints. Latent prints are usually invisible to the naked eye and require special lighting, powders, and/or chemicals to make them visible. I can then compare the recovered latent prints to a specific person or search the latent prints in an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). I was surprised to learn during training, that the AFIS system does not do the matching, the system requires an examiner to declare an identification.
What is your education and career background?
I have an Anthropology degree from Arizona State University. I focused in the physical sub-discipline of anthropology. While working as a latent print examiner I decided to return to school and earned a Masters of Legal Studies degree. The Masters of Legal Studies program was excellent because it allowed me to take courses within the Sandra Day O’Connor of Law that were relevant forensic science and criminal justice, but avoid the ones that the other law students had to take which were not relevant to my profession.
I have worked for two different forensic science laboratories, in two different states. I worked for the Phoenix Police Department in Arizona and currently work for the state of Minnesota’s crime laboratory, The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. I also do private contract consulting case work for both prosecution and defense through a company called Elite Forensic Science.
What inspiration did you have to enter your profession?
I loved the female character Temperance Brennan in the Kathy Reich’s novels. I wanted to be a Forensic Anthropologist. While attending the University I discovered Forensic Art and decided doing facial reconstruction would my dream job, a blend of both art and science. I am envious of Lisa (the featured forensic artist from July 2013) her interview was very exciting. I was a big fan of CSI type shows before I started in Forensic Science and I do believe that although CSI type shows have caused some unrealistic expectations about the capabilities of forensic science, one of the most overlooked benefits are the viewers who have dedicated themselves to excel in Universities in order to obtain a job in forensic science. I am always pleased to see the caliber of qualified applicants for open positions and much of that I attribute to the popularity of CSI type shows.
Did you have a mentor?
I have had several excellent trainers as I entered the discipline and I owe them a great thanks for patiently working with me and allowing me to spread my wings. I have two special people that have motivated and challenged me to do more than just my normal case work within my field, Dr. Allison Loll and Dr. Glenn Langenburg. I have begun hosting workshops, presenting at conferences and conducting research at my laboratory. It is a lot to balance but they have continually shown me that it can be done and is very rewarding.
What classes do you need to take in high-school and/or college to prepare for your profession?
The most practical advice I can give is to take science courses. I have a bachelor’s of Arts degree and found it difficult to qualify for forensic science positions. I provide my transcript to demonstrate that many of my elective courses were science courses. This would have been unnecessary if I had a Bachelor of Science degree. If your school offers forensic science courses that may help you get a sense of what discipline you might be interested in, but keep an open mind. Many latent print examiners were initially uninterested in the latent print discipline, now they say they could not imagine doing anything else.
I also recommend some basic criminal justice or law courses. Although science experience is a basic requirement of a forensic science position, understanding how forensic science works within the investigative stage and legal system is an integral aspect of our job. A criminal case begins with investigation but may end in the legal system. I highly encourage trying an internship at a crime laboratory. Some laboratories may not offer internships or have a formal internship program, however, if you have designed a specific research project a laboratory may allow to do collaborative work. In most labs you will not be allowed to work with evidence, but there are many possibilities for research projects. Reach out to your local laboratory and see if any of the scientists have a project you can assist with. Free assistance from qualified talented individuals can be a great help during ongoing research.
Is there anything you want to tell the readers of AWIFS (words of encouragement, challenges, hobbies, special interests, etc.)?
If your ever having a bad day at work spend some time reviewing the profiles and stories from the Innocence Project exonerees. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of what an important role forensic scientists play. These cases can quickly be a powerful reminder of impact we can have; resolving cases for victims, convicting the guilty and exonerating the innocent. Lastly, be an independent thinker. Look at everything critically. Never be afraid to disagree, challenge the opinions and declarations of others, even those you trust and respect. Value yourself enough to share personal opinions despite what others may think. It may encourage and inspire others to do the same.
Thank you Carey!
If you’re a woman in forensic science and you want to be featured in our blog series, “Women in Forensics”, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow us on twitter @womeninforensic #womeninforensic #awifs. We will share your blog post with our followers on twitter and facebook. You can share your publicized blog link with your colleagues, family and friends. Our goal is to INSPIRE women and girls who want to pursue a career in forensics. So don’t be shy, show us what you’re working with!