Q & A with Maria Gruber
Having the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner so close to campus is also pretty unique and a valuable resource.
When did you decide you wanted to study forensic science?
I started really thinking about what I wanted to major in when I was in 10th grade. I knew I wanted a career in a science field though I definitely didn't want to go to medical school. I thought about it and remembered a crime scene investigation kit my brother gave me when we were younger. I used to make up crimes and then solve them, and I always loved reading “The Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew” books. In 11th grade, I took a forensic science class and it cemented my love for the topic.
Why did you decide to major in forensic science?
I decided to major in forensic science because the major takes the most useful parts of so many other fields and uses them to help people. There are so many different disciplines within the major and the field that you can do almost anything. Even if you don't want to be a forensic scientist in a lab, you can still go to medical school or become a crime scene investigator after graduation. The connection with law enforcement is strong, and there are many opportunities both inside and outside of labs. Having the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner so close to campus is also pretty unique and a valuable resource for both in college and after.
What was one of your favorite classes in your major?
My favorite class in my major was Survey of Forensic Science, the introductory class for forensic science. Learning about the many different disciplines within the field was really interesting, and the different guest speakers enriched the experience. All of them were passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about their areas of interest. The class made me think more about what I wanted to do in forensic science.
Who was one of your favorite professors?
Dr. Catherine Connon is one of my favorite professors in the department. She is passionate about what she does and extremely knowledgeable. In class, she takes time to explain things and gives plenty of examples. Her explanations are in-depth and well thought out. Beyond class, Dr. Connon is always willing to meet with students. We've talked about graduate schools, the different opportunities available to me, and she's even reviewed my resume and cover letter.
How else are you involved with the department?
I am also very active in the Forensic Science Student Club. The club organizes tours to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (both in downtown Richmond), plans different forensic activities with our club members, hosts guest speakers and puts on Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. Also, members are eligible for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference scholarship. Every year the club gives some money to two or three students to attend the AAFS annual conference. It was in Anaheim, Calif. this past February and I was lucky enough to get the scholarship and attend. It was a truly wonderful experience that solidified what I want to do in the field and allowed me to make connections with people working in forensic biology.