Ben Sarno; Criminalist in the New York Police Department�s Forensic
I currently work in the NYPD crime lab located in Jamaica,
Queens. More specifically, my official title is a criminalist in the
CSAS (controlled substance analysis section) of the FID (forensic
investigation division). I analyze evidence that comes into the
laboratory for the presence of controlled substances and meet
specific charges based on weights and purity. Typically the caseload
is about 5 per day, and it never ceases to amaze me the way people
find ways to try to conceal drugs. I�ve been doing casework for
almost a year (after a year of training), and every day is different
because you never know what you are going to get.
What led you down the path to where you are now? I
graduated from St. Michael�s College in 2005 with a bachelor�s
degree in Biology. I soon learned that it was quite difficult to
find a job in biology due to lack of experience. It was at this
point that I decided to go back to school. I knew around my junior
year that I wanted to pursue a career in forensic science and that
getting a job in that field could prove difficult given the
competition (TV shows had sparked everyone�s interest in the field)
and the state of the economy (very few labs were hiring at the
time). I graduated from the University of New Haven with a master�s
degree in forensic science and a concentration in criminalistics in
2008. While I was doing that I was working full time as an
analytical chemist in Enfield CT with a company called STR
(Specialized Technology Resources Inc.) It is a worldwide consumer
products testing company, so I tested consumer products (mostly kids
toys) for toxic chemicals. Working full time and driving across the
state of Connecticut 4 times a week for grad school classes was
quite difficult, but it was worth it when I finished. The internship
I had during grad school was amazing. I worked in the DNA analysis
section of the CT state crime lab in Meriden CT. I got the chance to
DNA profile my entire family and worked on a validation project for
a robotic instrument that performed DNA extractions.
The problem I had with my career path was getting enough
experience in biology. My main interest has always been in biology
and I loved every biology class I took at St. Michael�s. I always
wanted to apply my education to the biology aspect of forensic
science (DNA analysis) and I hope to do that in the near future,
maybe by transferring to a different department in the lab. I feel
like all my experience in chemistry is pushing me further and
further away from that, but hopefully that will change. NYC was a
great place to start in my field. The lab is so big and it was an
opportunity I couldn�t pass up.
What experiences in the Saint Michael's College biology
department prepared you for your post-graduate training and your
career? The biology department and the overall liberal arts
education at St. Michaels has shaped me into the person I am today.
I give so much credit to the professors, who challenged me and
taught me so much, specifically Dr. Lippert my advisor, Dr.
Lubkowitz, Dr. Bozzone, and Dr. Green. I definitely miss the science
club trips to Montreal!
What advice would you give current Saint Michael's College
students interested in graduate study and/or specifically interested
in your field? My advice is to network as much as possible and
make connections especially with a field such as forensic science.
Get as much experience in your field of interest as you can if you
are looking for something specific.