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Mackenzie Pickford recieves grant from Eberly College of Science to pursue research

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Mackenzie Pickford

November 10, 2017 – Mackenzie Pickford, an undergraduate student in the Forensic Science Program, has received a $1,000.00 grant from Eberly College of Science to pursue her research on “The evaluation of slides prepared for cervical anomaly for use in missing person cases.”

When asked why she chose to pursue a career in science, and more specifically in Forensic Science, Pickford said “I have always been interested in mysteries and puzzles, as well as biology.”  She references a biology class she took at her high school in Harleysville, PA as an inspiration for her to pursue science.  She was a sophomore and was taking part in a lab session focused on determining who had committed a crime using gel electrophoresis.  “I was instantly fascinated by the subject, and that’s when I discovered Forensic Science”, said Pickford.

Pickford’s, along with the rest of the research team of Ariana Dindial, Julia Catena and Justina Nichols, research is important to the field. When women go missing and evidence, such as blood or body fluids, are found at a crime scene, reference samples are needed to compare the DNA profile from the evidence to the missing person.  The research project involves the extraction of DNA from pap smear slides preserved at clinical laboratories and hospitals, which can be used as reference samples.  The slides are stained in order to help physicians view the cells easier.  The team’s research tests to see whether the stains being used affect the ability to generate DNA profiles from the cells contained within the slides.  When this extracted DNA is subjected to quantification and amplification a DNA profile can be obtained, which can be compared to the profile from the evidence found at a crime scene.

When asked how she and the team planned to use the grant funds, Pickford responded “The grant will allow our research group to purchase the necessary reagents to extract, qualify and amplify the DNA samples.” 

Pickford is nearing the end of her undergraduate career at Penn State and will graduate this coming May.  After graduation she hopes to work as a Forensic Biologist in a crime laboratory where she will perform DNA analysis.

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