Last summer, Amanda Gonzalez found herself helping people to escape when a pathogen outbreak erupted at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. The museum was hosting its “Murder at the Mütter” event, and Amanda was a volunteer actor. She also assisted her Rutgers-Camden forensic science instructor, Ms. Kimberlee Moran, in a lab for lifting latent fingerprints from a broken piece of a beaker that would be used as evidence in a museum-wide game of Clue, in which guests of the event had to decipher the evidence and determine who committed the crime. Amanda’s interest in forensic science stems from a young age; her passion, coupled with a supportive mentor and a strong work ethic partially shaped by her service in the military, led her to the success she now enjoys.
Amanda was attracted to Rutgers-Camden for its “excellent reputation.” She began her undergraduate studies in 2003 and declared a major in biology, while she also worked at a restaurant close to home. In 2006, she enlisted in the Air Force and became an Environmental Journeyman, training in environmental support and management. It was not her original intention to survey ecological hazards, but the work put her education in biology to use. Two deployments to Baghdad, an Iraqi Campaign Medal, and a collection of awards from the Air Force later, Amanda returned to Rutgers-Camden to complete her biology degree. In order to better pursue her dream of working in the field of forensic science and pathology, Amanda also declared a second major in criminal justice. As a member of the Air Force ROTC program, she was also able to cross-enroll at St. Joseph’s University. Amanda calls the unique challenge of being a student while also serving in the military “extremely difficult, yet rewarding at the same time.”
Upon her return to Rutgers-Camden, Amanda enrolled in the class “Methods and Techniques of Forensic Science,” taught by Ms. Moran, who in addition to lecturing at Rutgers-Camden also serves as director of The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education. Ms. Moran became an important figure in Amanda’s life, helping her to secure the volunteer role at the “Murder at the Mütter” event and giving Amanda a glowing recommendation when Amanda applied for her dream job after graduation.
Despite an interest in attending medical school, after graduation Amanda focused on getting into the forensics field. A few months after earning her degree, she found an open position for a Crime Scene Analyst in Camden. Thanks to her superior record, Amanda got the job. She and her colleagues are the first privately contracted team to work between CRA Inc. and the new Camden County Police Department. Every day on the job is different; Amanda and her team process crime science and fingerprint examinations, and take photographs of burglary and assault crime scenes, all of which become permanent evidence in the chain of custody. If the team can attain quality fingerprints, they are sent to the state lab where they are processed through a fingerprint database for comparison. It is busy, but exciting work.
It seems fitting that Amanda, a proud Rutgers-Camden alumna, would find her dream job in the city where it all started. “I was overjoyed when I was offered the position in Camden,” she said. Amanda Gonzalez has seen places near and far, but Camden will always welcome her back.
About Amanda Gonzalez
Hometown: West Berlin, NJ
Majors: Biology and Criminal Justice
Camden College of Arts and Sciences Graduation Date: May 2013
Written By Darragh Nolan