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WVU student receives national forensic science and criminal justice scholarship

West Virginia University junior Samantha Mehnert has been selected as a recipient of the 2019 George H. Robinson Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship recognizes undergraduate students in forensic science and criminal justice. Mehnert received a $1,000 award at the Chesapeake Bay Division of the International Association for Identification’s spring conference, held April 4-5.

Samantha Mehnert
Samantha Mehnert

A forensic science and chemistry major, Mehnert presented her research on a new algorithm for drug identification using mass spectrometry at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Baltimore, Maryland.  

After graduation, Mehnert plans to pursue a doctorate in analytical chemistry. She aspires to be a crime lab director.

“I’ve always had a love for science. I found out I really liked chemistry when I arrived at WVU. Being a doctor wasn’t appealing to me, so I wondered how else I could help people using my love of science. A good way to do that is with forensic science,” Mehnert said. “It helps make the world a safer place. It can help take care of people before they need to go to the hospital­. We want to prevent catastrophes from happening and put away the individuals causing harm. It’s another way for me to help people.”

Mehnert believes one of the most important aspects of science is mentorship.

“WVU has amazing faculty that really helped me become a more open person and be more willing to put myself out there in the world. They made me fall in love with what I’m studying now,” she said. “Though I was interested in chemistry in high school, I wasn’t too fond of it. Now, I’m double-majoring in it! The faculty here are just amazing because they genuinely want you to learn.”

Mehnert credits her time working with Ming Hsieh Distinguished Professor of Forensic and Investigative Science Glen Jackson for helping her to become more confident in the lab through WVU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program.

“Some of the joys of mentoring Mehnert are that she is willing to work hard, she is eager to gain new knowledge and she is not afraid to step outside of her comfort zone and learn new skills,” Jackson said. “It is not surprising, then, that she has already presented her excellent research accomplishments at the largest annual forensic science conference in the U.S.”