Beighley Ayers is working towards her Masters in Forensic Science at Towson University and will be representing ISHI as a Student Ambassador this year. Beighley’s early fascination with forensic science started around middle school, inspired by television and documentaries broadcasting strong women in STEM using evidence as puzzle pieces to solve crimes. She knew forensic science was for her after taking an introductory course newly offered at her high school. Beighley enjoyed taking on the tedious challenge of examining evidence and analyzing data to help evaluate the circumstance of the case. Even without an abundance of recognition, she found forensics to be self-fulling and a confidence-booster. Once she realized forensic science was offered in college and a pursuable career path, Beighley entered her journey of becoming a forensic DNA analyst. As her first year of graduate school at Towson University comes to a close, she is one step closer to graduating with a Master of Science in Forensic Science in the biology track. With an in-depth education from Towson, she is eager to find a position as a forensic biologist working at a crime laboratory after graduating in May 2024.
We caught up with Beighley 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 graduation, and what she’s most looking forward to at ISHI this year.
Beighley, thank you for talking with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about how you become interested in forensic science?
When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with the show, Body of Proof. It was unfortunately cancelled after three seasons, but it featured a female forensic pathologist who solved crimes via autopsies. We all know of Criminal Minds and NCIS, but Body of Proof was different because of the strong female lead and starred more forensic evidence than more police work in the other shows. This show inspired me to look into forensic science. For a while I wanted to be a forensic pathologist until my high school introduced a new elective covering different aspects of forensic science. Each week we covered a different avenue of forensics like toxicology, firearms, latent prints, etc. I started to like forensic biology a little more and discovered it was something I could major in college. I have been studying forensic science ever since!
What do you like most about working in the forensics field?
I enjoy puzzles because of the challenge. I see forensic science as a large puzzle with many working parts used to ultimately serve justice. Contributing to that puzzle through testing evidence and analyzing results to understand the circumstances of a case is one of the reasons I enjoy this field.
How do you describe what you do/your job to family and friends?
Most of the time when I say I am pursuing my Master’s degree in forensic science, people respond with a comparison to a crime show like NCIS or relate me to a crime podcast. I typically like to explain that forensic biologists are one piece to the puzzle when it comes to a crime. When a crime occurs, crime scene techs and/or police would collect the evidence and send it to the forensic laboratory. As a hopeful forensic biologist, any biological evidence like blood would be sent to me where I would perform tests to determine the source of the evidence. Once I reach my conclusions, I would send this information to the police or investigators, and they would proceed with the next steps. Occasionally, these cases will require lawyers to call me to testify my findings to a jury.
What are you most looking forward to at ISHI this Fall?
At ISHI, I am looking forward to meeting so many people from the forensics community and gaining connections. Expanding my network is becoming increasingly important as I approach the process of applying for jobs. It will be an incredible opportunity to speak to different people from the field. I am also very ecstatic to be visiting the Denver Natural History Museum.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I was sitting in the athletic training room at Eastern Kentucky University after cross county practice one day, and I was explaining my dilemma with choosing a graduate school with all the pros and cons. I felt the weight of such an important decision and was nervous I would pick the “wrong one.” An athletic trainer told me that the choices that both excited you and scare you a little are the best ones because they bring you outside your comfort zone and allow the most growth. That piece of advice helped me choose Towson University and other decisions in my life that continue to push me forward towards my goals and happiness.
What are you hoping to do after college?
After graduating from Towson University in May 2024 with my Master’s degree in forensic science, I am hoping to work in a crime laboratory as a DNA analyst. I am willing to move and work in various parts of the United States, but ultimately, I would like to work and relocate to Colorado eventually. It has been my dream to live out west because I am a mountains gal.
What is one song that would be on the soundtrack of your life and why?
I had this teacher in seventh grade that I honestly did not like at first, but then turned out to be one of my favorites and most impactful teachers I had growing up. Right before our standardized state testing exam, she played “Hall of Fame” by the Script for the class. If you have not heard the song before, it is very motivational and the lyrics emphasize that you can do anything you put your mind to. To this day, it remains on my motivational playlist. I have played it before AP exams in high school, final exams in college, before numerous cross country and track and field races, and on my road trips to and from school. I would consider it a soundtrack of my life because I was always encouraged to try my best, be determined, and work hard so that I can accomplish any goal I set for myself. This song embodies this drive and inspires me to keep striving for more.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Not only am I a women in STEM, but I also am a runner. I spent the last five years competing at the Division I level in cross country and track and field at Eastern Kentucky University and Towson University. It was very common for me to show up to class already having run anywhere from 5-10 miles. Often times people ask me how fast I can run a mile (5:03) or how many miles I run a day or per week (about 50-60 miles per week). My eligibility clock just ran out, so now in my spare time when I am not in the lab, I am training for an upcoming half marathon! I have already finished multiple half marathons years ago, and as many people ask, the plan is to run marathons one day as well. In addition to running, I love to hike. In 2022, I hiked up Mount Bierstadt in Colorado, which is one of many mountain peaks that reach over 14,000 feet in CO. This is the first of many 14’ers I plan to do in my life!
Beighley, thank you for letting us get to know you a little better! Be sure to follow her onINSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK or connect with her on LINKEDIN.
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