Southeast Forensic Chemistry Student Goes ‘Under the Microscope’ with Missouri Highway Patrol Lab

Freitag_WTDWedSoutheast Missouri State University junior Lucy Freitag of St. Louis, Missouri, is putting her scientific skills to work this summer in the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Troop E Cape Girardeau Crime Laboratory.

Freitag, a forensic chemistry and American Chemical Society certified chemistry major as well as a Southeast Governor’s Scholar, is gaining hands-on experience by assisting with quality control and quality assurance as part of a 1,000-hour hands-on forensic science laboratory experience.

“So far, I have learned a lot about not only the physical processes of working with evidence, but a lot of the official filing and logging that goes with it. This knowledge of the way evidence is handled will benefit me further down the road in my career, and most of my experience with quality assurance is beneficial to me as a chemistry student right now,” Freitag said.

She is the fourth Southeast forensic chemistry student to work with the Highway Patrol and only the second undergraduate to hold this appointment. Two of those four are now permanent scientists with the Highway Patrol.

“What I hope to take away from this is something I’ve already started to gain, which is real world, hands-on experience in a crime lab. I’m learning my way around the policies that law enforcement use with evidence, which will highly benefit me in the future,” Freitag said.

Although she is still in training, Freitag has already done maintenance on lab machinery, prepped and calibrated equipment and logged information into databases.

“As the summer progresses, I will be making reagents, helping pull some casework, and also listing out sexual assault kits for testing,” Freitag said.

She found out about the position from her advisor and professor in Southeast’s Department of Chemistry Dr. Jim McGill. He identified Freitag as a qualified candidate and recommended her to the Highway Patrol.

In addition to working nearly 20 hours a week with the Missouri Highway Patrol, Freitag spent last week helping with Horizons, Southeast’s summer youth enrichment camps. She assisted McGill with “CSI- Southeast” where they taught 9-14-year-olds about crime investigation. She says she had never before been involved with the program but enjoyed it.

“I helped teach the kids different forensic areas of interest such as fingerprinting, shoe prints, DNA, bones, tire tracks as well as how to use a microscope and properly handle a crime scene,” Freitag said. “At the end of the week, we did a mock crime scene for the kids to showcase their abilities from the week.”

She plans to work for the Missouri State Highway Patrol for about a year and to graduate in May 2018. Freitag serves as the secretary for the Jane Stephens Honors Program where she plans events for honors students. Down the road, she says she would like to eventually get a master’s degree as well as land a position in a crime lab.

“I haven’t narrowed down what area I would like to work in, which is why this position with the Highway Patrol has been so great, because I get to work with several different departments and areas of forensic science,” Freitag said.