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Spring on the York College campus

Fighting Crime with Science

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There’s something about the draw of television series and movies featuring dramatized crime or the taboo idea of serial killers and binge-watching the next big documentary featuring their infamy. Sophomore Amanda Ott has always found herself intrigued by popular crime shows such as NCIS. 

“I’ve always wanted to be like Abby,” she says of the spunky goth character on the show who is always the one cracking the case with her amazing scientific skills. Ott has considered a career in law enforcement, but, like Abby, she is a nerd at heart and has always been drawn to the science fields. After attending a college fair, Ott made the decision to leave her hometown in Lakeland, Florida, to come to York College and pursue a degree in Forensic Chemistry — the perfect combination of science and crime fighting. 

While she was “sold” on the College and the program, being accepted for the Presidential Research Fellows Scholarship program opened another door of opportunity. “The scholarship grants me a multitude of opportunities with the school, and I get to begin the research process earlier than most other students,” she said. 

Ott’s research is in the very early stages. She is currently conducting preliminary literature research on the subject of hair analysis. She plans to use this research in her overall project of how the use of CBD oil with trace amounts of THC could affect drug tests. “I’m reading articles on hair analysis of cannabis users, hair analysis by supercritical fluid extraction, and general hair analysis in the forensics field, and collecting information which could be useful for my own project,” explains Ott. 

With the help of faculty mentors, Kerry Opel, PhD, and Gregory Foy, PhD, she has been able to dive deeper into specific areas. “Both professors are guiding me at the moment in my literature review and will likely help guide my physical research later on,” says Ott. With little research in this area, the process has been difficult, but she is certainly learning a lot from it. 

“I’ve been learning that the field of forensics is vast and seems to be ever-evolving as new areas of analysis and technology appear,” says Ott. “I’m excited to see what changes will be made in the future in the field of forensics and how that will impact the criminal justice world as well.” 

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