Horan ’05M Finds Ideal Blend of Science and Law in Forensics

By schwartzsa | September 23, 2011

A member of the first graduating class of Arcadia’s Forensic Science Master’s program, Susan Horan ’05M currently is working for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in New York City, N.Y., in the Forensic Biology Department. The hands-on training and connections she acquired at Arcadia helped her to find her place amid the broad field of Forensic Science.

Before Arcadia’s 12-credit guaranteed internship was established with the Fredric Rieders Family Renaissance Foundation, Horan interned with the Criminalistics Department at NMS Labs. She believes the experience gave her the edge to find the right position.

“The internship gave me the experience I needed to obtain a position as a DNA analyst and having that on my resume really set me apart from other recent graduates applying for the same positions,” she says. “I was able to observe how a real forensic lab operates, from evidence examination and DNA testing to the report writing, I also had the opportunity to sit in on meetings with detectives and attorneys, and to observe analysts testimonies in court.”

As Criminalist IV at OCME, Horan performs DNA testing in criminal cases for all five boroughs of New York City. Her duties include supervising Criminalists who perform DNA testing; reviewing reports; and discussing evidence and results with the NYPD and District Attorney’s Offices. Horan also testifies in court, both grand jury and trial, as needed.

Having always found the practice of law fascinating, Horan realized in high school that her skill set was more aligned with the natural sciences. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Arizona State University in 2003, Horan was anxious to move closer to her family in the Philadelphia area. She soon learned about Arcadia’s brand new forensic science program and jumped at the chance to be in on the ground floor. For Horan, forensic science was a perfect marriage of science and law.

Horan worked as a Processing Specialist and Forensic Biologist at NMS Labs for two years following graduation. When she began looking for a role which allowed her to work more closely with the law, it was fellow Arcadia alumna, friend and now, co-worker, Katey Nori ’05M, who referred her to apply at the OCME. Nori had been happily working in the department for approximately one year prior.

“I love my job because I like working in New York, I work with a great group of people, and no two days are ever the same,” she says.

Her advice to those entering the field of Forensic Science is to get in the lab. “Whether it’s an internship in a police or forensic lab, or doing some research, having some lab experience will set you apart from the hundreds of other applicants applying for the same position as you. The field of forensic science is nothing like CSI—it’s much more scientific and tedious, and can even be boring and repetitive at times so even if the work you’re doing seems monotonous, it’s real world experience and it will give you a feel if this is the right career for you. ”