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Love of CSI leads student to study Forensic Chemistry at York College

Skylar Monaghan pictured with Washington Monument

Growing up in Telford, Pennsylvania, Skylar Monaghan ’21 was more likely to watch CSI and Forensic Files than shows like Power Puff Girls. When she got to high school, she fell in love with a chemistry class and enrolled in an AP chemistry course. Her passion for crime scene technology and forensics, paired with her success at chemistry, led her to want to study forensic chemistry in college.

“When I finally went looking for schools, I was looking very specifically for forensic chemistry as a major,” Skylar says. “I knew it was few and far between. York College of Pennsylvania was one of the only schools within the area I was comfortable going to that had it as a major.”

Skylar loves York College’s tight-knit community and small classrooms. During her first visit to the College, she saw that the professors in the Chemistry Department were extremely passionate about both their professions and helping students. It made her decision to attend the College easy.

Last year, Skylar took a class called Crime Scene Processing. Students in the class would enter a fake crime scene for a lab portion and focus on a specific aspect of the crime. One day, they might work on fingerprinting while the next, they would examine blood spatters.

These experiences helped Skylar pinpoint exactly what she wants to do after graduating: work in a crime lab doing trace analysis. She hopes to analyze anything from fibers to hair and other minute details found at crime scenes. By using the right instrumentation, Skylar says forensic chemists can figure out where a certain fiber came from to help solve a crime. “I find it super interesting,” she says. “I think I have a keen attention to detail and would work best in that area.”

Learning her leadership style

In addition to her work in her major, Skylar was a part of the College’s Developing Leader Seminar Program that began in September. The eight-week-long seminar course runs once a week for an hour where students learn about their own leadership styles, how to market those skills to professionals, and how to work with a team.

Skylar and her peers were often paired in groups with differing leadership styles. They had to work together to achieve a goal on a certain project. For example, one week they received a business plan and had to put it into action. “Mine was to do an all-accessibilities park,” Skylar says. “We all delegated what needed to happen for it. Then our instructor threw us a curveball saying, ‘Oh, you’re not getting your permits in for another three months because of zoning regulations.’ We all learned how to roll with the punches.”

Throughout the eight weeks, Skylar learned how to rely on the skills of others instead of her own. She formed connections with many different people on campus, and she even started meeting with a faculty mentor who helps with professional development, such as writing a reference letter or fine-tuning a resume.

Using her skills to empower women

Skylar gets to use the skills she learned in the program to lead her sorority as president of Sigma Delta Tau. The sorority focuses on the ideal that empowered women, empower women. Students work with various philanthropies such as Prevent Child Abuse America and also create activities on campus to foster lifelong connections.

However, she almost didn’t get the opportunity to lead as she almost didn’t join the sorority in the first place. Skylar says she was hesitant to join a sorority because of what she had seen on TV and the movies. But after not making the connections she wanted to on campus, she took a leap and joined. From the day she got her bid to now, she considers it one of the best decisions she’s ever made while at York College.

“I don’t think without me joining my organization my first year, I would’ve come this far academically, professionally, and personally,” she says. “I am surrounded by these empowered women who are always pushing me to be the best me that I can be.”

All of these experiences at York College have taught Skylar how to work in different environments with people from different backgrounds. She now has a more positive outlook on teamwork and understands you need other people to be your support systems. After all this careful preparation, she’s ready to take on a career in forensic chemistry.