Alumna Followed Her Heart to IUPUI Forensics

Cassie Olson, 2011 Alumna | B.S. Forensic & Investigative Sciences
Drug Chemist, St. Charles County Criminalistics Laboratory

Cassie OlsonCassie Olson enjoyed the "homey feeling" and close camaraderie among students and faculty when she pursued a degree in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program.

After a few semesters at a larger university, Cassie Olson said she came to realize she was missing something in her education.

Olson, a 2011 graduate from the School of Science at IUPUI, wanted a personalized experience. She wanted instructors who knew her name, understood her goals and invested in her success. Looking back, her transfer to the Forensic and Investigative Sciences (FIS) Program at IUPUI made sense at the time and continues to pay off for her now as she begins her career as a drug chemist in a criminalistics laboratory.

“I knew that forensic science was what I was passionate about,” she said, “so I decided to change schools and follow my heart.” 

IUPUI not only offered her the major she wanted, it also offered the only accredited Forensic & Investigative Sciences (FIS) program in the state.

“After I researched the program, it seemed to cover a lot of the different forensic disciplines and gave students a well-rounded education while also allowing them to specialize in an area,” added Olson, of Zionsville, Ind.

FIS majors can select either a biology or chemistry focus. Olson pursued the chemistry track based on her interest and transferrable coursework. She now works in the St. Charles County (Mo.) Sheriff’s Department Criminalistics Laboratory. 

Beyond the academics, the campus and program culture really made it special for her, she added. Olson noted the hands-on learning environment, the team-building opportunities to work with other students and the resources and technology available to FIS majors.

“It really was a very ‘homey’ feeling,” Olson said of the program. “The small size of FIS was extremely helpful as a student trying to learn anything and everything about the field. The environment helped to foster relationships between students and faculty where students could have open communication and mentoring from their instructors.”

The program also offered her many opportunities to learn outside the classroom, which she said helped to enhance the value of her degree. She attended meetings of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, participated in the Forensic Sciences Club and completed a summer-long internship.

“I was completing real-life projects in crime labs as an actual scientist. I felt involved and a part of this professional community even before graduating,” she said.

Although happy in her current position, Olson appreciates that her degree and strong science background offer her many career options as well. Graduates who are flexible and willing to try different specialties in the field open themselves to possibilities outside the limited forensic analyst positions available within government agencies, she said.

“Forensics is ever-changing and developing—with new discoveries and instruments constantly,” she said. “Each day is different; I never feel a sense of monotony in the workplace. This type of work is really gratifying for people looking to make a difference without following a traditional path like a legal or law enforcement career.”