Under the Microscope with ISHI Student Ambassador Amber Vandepoele

Amber Vandepoele is working towards her BS in Biochemistry and BS in Forensic Science at Syracuse University and will be representing ISHI as a Student Ambassador this year. During her first semester at Syracuse, Amber joined Dr. Marciano’s bioforensics lab on campus, the first freshman to do so. Through three years of bioforensics research, she has discovered her passion for forensic science and specifically DNA analysis. At ISHI 32 this year, she’ll be presenting a poster titled “Phylogenetic Differential Separation of Environmental Samples: The First Step in Improving Mixed Species Sequencing Results.” She says In forensic science, when genetic identity is in question, the choice is often to target one species in a sample, for example human DNA. However, it may be advantageous to characterize multiple species as they can be used to provide probative information about the potential crime or event of interest. For example, microbial profiles can serve as a tool for individualization and can include or exclude a suspect from a crime scene. Therefore, her study aims for the optimization of a method to separate bacterial, plant, and human cells in a mixed sample using pre-extraction cell size filtration and post-extraction sequence capture. This separation method will allow complex DNA samples to be interpreted more easily, and thereby maximizing the amount of genetic information that can be gleaned.


We caught up with Amber and asked her to tell us a little more about herself, including how she became interested in forensic science, what she plans to do after she graduates, and what she’s most looking forward to at ISHI this year.



Amber, thank you for talking with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about how you become interested in forensic science?

I became interested in forensic science after taking a general forensic science course in high school. This class was taught at Aliso Niguel High School by Dwynn Famalette whose teaching style and passion for the topic made the course not only one of my favorite classes in high school but sparked my interest in forensic science. Many guest speakers, all practicing professionals in the forensic science field, came to our class and shared their day-to-day experiences and the importance of their respective careers. These speakers in combination with the class lectures led me to pursue a career as a DNA analyst.



Can you describe your area of interest for our readers?

I am interested in forensic DNA analysis. After taking the forensic science course in high school, I knew DNA analysis was the area of forensics that interested me the most. My undergraduate research, which focuses on isolating DNA from different organisms to help provide probative information about a potential crime, has solidified my goal to become a DNA analyst. Further, through classes I have taken at SU, such as “DNA Analysis” and “Analysis of Biological Fluids,” I have gotten a glimpse at the work DNA analysts do daily and found the work to be extremely important and something I can see myself doing. I hope that by pursuing a career as a DNA analyst I can do my part in helping improve global justice.



Biochemistry and Forensic Science major Amber Vandepoele sits with her notebook in one of the forensic science labs in Lyman Hall.


What are you most looking forward to at ISHI this September?

I am looking forward to meeting professionals in the field and networking with top forensic science companies. As a student, I have much to learn and am excited for this opportunity to connect with experts in the field. I am also very excited to present my research and share my work with other scientists.


What are you hoping to do after college?

After completing my Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and Bachelor of Science in forensic science in the Spring of 2022, I hope to get my master’s degree in forensic science at SU. I plan on completing my master’s degree in the Spring of 2023 and then pursuing a job as a DNA analyst.


Do you have any advice for others looking to get into forensics?

My advice to others interested in forensic science is to get a background in a science field such as biology or chemistry. Pursuing a degree in biochemistry, allowed me to have a much deeper understanding of forensic science. Specifically, I gained a deeper understanding of how all the tests performed on pieces of evidence work. Having a strong science background as well as research experience has been critical in my success as a forensic science major. I received the same advice when I was a freshman in college, and it has been the most valuable advice I have received in my pursuit of a forensic science career.





Since we’ll be at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort this year, which Disney character is your favorite or do you relate to most? Why?

My favorite Disney character is Olaf from Frozen. I love Olaf because he is a sweet character who brings joy to everyone. I hope I can bring even half the amount of joy and happiness to my family and friends as Olaf brings to everyone he interacts with. Also, he loves warm hugs just like I do!


Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would love to share that I will be joining the Defense Forensic Science Center as a research apprentice in the Fall through the Army Educational Outreach Program. I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn from practicing forensic scientists and conduct cutting edge research at the premier forensic center of the United States Department of Defense.



Amber, thank you for letting us get to know you a little better! Be sure to follow Amber on INSTAGRAM or TWITTER or connect with her on LINKEDIN.