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Forensic Chemistry major dreams of solving crime with science

Amanda Ott headshot
Amanda Ott

If there’s one thing that explains Amanda Ott’s future career choice, it’s NCIS and other crime shows like it. She’s been watching them for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve always wanted to be like Abby,” the Forensic Chemistry major says. Abby was a spunky goth girl in a lab coat who solved crime using the power of science. That’s pretty much Amanda’s dream job. To get there, she’d need a degree in forensic chemistry. The pull of York College of Pennsylvania’s program was so strong, it brought her all the way from Florida to pursue her dream.

Helping through science

Amanda always knew she wanted a career where she could help people. She considered going into law or becoming a police officer, but really, she was a nerd at heart. “I’ve always had a big interest in the science-y fields,” she says.

Forensic chemistry ticked all the boxes. She’d get to help others, work in law enforcement, and do science. Now that she’s in her sophomore year studying forensic chemistry at York College, Amanda is getting to take the exciting classes like crime scene processing. “You get to see the difference between how it actually works and how they show it on TV,” she says.

It hasn’t ruined watching those crime shows for her; rather, it’s made it even more fun now that she can pick up on the things they do that would never work in real life.

Leaving her mark on the field

Amanda is a Presidential Research Fellow, as well as a STEM Scholar at York College. Both focus on extended research in her chosen field. It’s challenging—balancing classwork, a job, and the extra research—but it’s exciting to think she might be able to add something to the profession she’s so excited to join. “I’ve always wanted to really advance knowledge in the forensics field,” she says.

Right now, she’s looking into how the use of CBD oil with trace amounts of THC could affect drug tests. She’s still in the very early stages of research, but being one of just 11 Presidential Research Fellows has given her the opportunity to interact with students in completely different fields, but with the same drive. “It’s really interesting to communicate with them and learn something more about something I might not ever have come across,” she says.

First winter

Amanda has family in Ohio and Pennsylvania, so she’d been around snow a few times in her life, but it had been about five years since she’d seen a snowstorm when she came to York College. And she’d never experienced a full winter in the Mid-Atlantic. “I thought I was prepared,” she said. “I was not.”

After her first semester, she stocked up on supplies—new boots, more sweaters, more everything. Slowly, she’s accumulated a more reasonable selection of winter clothes. But, for a kid who grew up in Florida, she took to the chilly weather surprisingly well. “I love the winter,” she says. “I was excited to get out of the Florida heat.”

Looking forward

Amanda can’t wait until next year, when she’ll get to work with actual case evidence in her lab classes. She’s excited to really dig in to her research, to expand the knowledge in the forensic chemistry field. And, she’s looking forward to reaching for her dream job: to be like Abby, working for the FBI or the military, spending her days in a lab solving crimes with science.