Growing forensics field topic for students

2016 QCHS graduate Jessica Braeunle spoke about her “amazing experience” in forensics, and she credited a high school teacher for her career path.
Posted on 04/17/2023
Jessica Braeunle presents information to students about a career in forensic science. By Gary Weckselblatt

Quakertown Community High School students heard from a forensic scientist about one of the nation’s fastest-growing fields. That forensic scientist is also a 2016 QCHS graduate.

Jessica Braeunle, part of Cedar Crest’s Delta Delta Epsilon International Forensic Science Honor Society, and an employee of the Lehigh Valley Health Networks HNL Labs, returned to the school she attended, which had been a goal of hers.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “I wanted to come back here and show everyone my love for the field.”

The event was part of the school’s Career Pathways Speaker Series, which has included a variety of career options for students with Academic Pathways that incorporate Arts and Humanities, Business, Marketing and Finance, STEM and Computer Science. Students have heard from an attorney, bankers, teachers, administrators, emergency medical technicians, a genetic counselor, members of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, and the armed services.

Forensic scientists analyze crime scene evidence, such as fingerprints, bodily fluids and blood splatters, to identify the perpetrators of crime. They also use digital technology to perform such functions as authenticating handwritten documents and audio recordings, establishing video timelines and recovering deleted computer files.

Ms. Braeunle said Barry Stoneback, her high school forensics and biology teacher, “is the reason I went into this. I know other people can have the same experience. It’s nothing like what you see on TV. It’s a great field to be in.

Ms. Braeunle received a B.S. in Biology and Biology Technology, and minored in Biochemistry and Criminal Justice at Shippensburg University before working on her masters in Forensic Science at Cedar Crest. She’s scheduled to graduate next month.

Mr. Stoneback, who attended the session, was proud of his student’s success. “To me, this is the reason we do what we do every day,” he said. “You can see she loves to do what she does, and she’s excited about it. It’s what you want for all of your students.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, there were 16,640 forensic scientists, also known as crime scene investigators or forensic science technicians. The BLS projects that 2,500 new forensic scientist jobs will be added to the market each year through 2030, which represents a 16 percent growth rate. This is faster than the national average job growth rate projected for other occupations. As a point of comparison, the BLS projects demand for chemists and materials scientists to be about average at 6 percent, while conservation scientist jobs will grow by about 7 percent.

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].
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