Next Step, US Dept. of Defense

Ryan Gutierrez, a Forensic Science Ph.D. student was recently awarded the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship.

This prestigious award provides students with a unique opportunity to pursue a STEM degree and begin a rewarding career with the U.S. Department of Defense upon graduation. Benefits include full tuition, an annual stipend, book and health insurance allowance, a summer internship and a guaranteed position with the Department of Defense upon graduation. Through the program, Gutierrez will have the chance to begin a full-time career with the Defense Forensic Science Center in Forest Park, Ga.

“This type of achievement proves our students are leaving here with a competitive edge and are prepared to address current needs of the forensic science community,” said Sarah Kerrigan, chair of the Department of Forensic Science and director of the Institute for Forensic Research, Training, and Innovation.

After applying for the scholarship, based on a professor’s recommendation, Gutierrez visited the Georgia lab and was excited to see many familiar instruments from his research work at SHSU.

“Their lab is state-of-the-art, high-tech, a lot of what we have here actually,” Gutierrez said. “It felt like putting familiar gloves on. It’s a relief knowing whenever I’m done here that I have a quality experience waiting for me.”

Gutierrez is another testament to the cutting-edge research SHSU forensic science students are pursuing. His research focuses on new techniques to recover genetic information from rootless hair shafts. The bulb, or root, contains the best quality DNA, Gutierrez explained. He chose to pursue this avenue of research because of the challenges presented.

“The goal of a PhD is to contribute to the body of knowledge of science and that’s what he’s doing,” said Bobby LaRue, associate professor and Gutierrez’s dissertation chair. “Ryan deserves the credit for all the work he is doing and I enjoy mentoring students like him who are driven.”

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