Erica Epply has always loved a good mystery.
That’s why she has a longstanding interest in forensics, which would give her a chance to solve puzzles made of DNA and unforeseen circumstances.
“It’s just always been something I was interested in since I was a teenager. I watched Unsolved Mysteries, CSI,” she explained. “I would love to work for the FBI and do forensics.”
Unlike many of the cases in an hour-long television show, real forensics takes knowledge, determination and a good deal of time. And so did the Binghamton resident’s own six-year trajectory toward her degree and her chosen career.
After graduating from Windsor High School, Erica joined the Army and headed to boot camp – only to discover that the scoliosis in her back kept her from a military career. Next stop: retail, to pay the bills and support her two children, now ages 12 and 9.
“I didn’t come back to college for 10 to 11 years. I didn’t want to work retail for the rest of my life,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in criminal justice – solving things, mysteries.”
At first, higher education seemed to have a tough learning curve. She made some mistakes – taking too many difficult courses, such as biology and chemistry in one semester, for example – and didn’t always know where to turn for help. But she adapted, connecting with her professors – particularly Chemistry Professor Harold Trimm, with whom she did many forensics-related independent studies.
After earning an Associate’s degree in science at SUNY Broome, she headed to Binghamton University to major in biochemistry. Still, she had a tough time figuring out precisely what she wanted to do in forensics; she loves the entire field, she noted. After two years at BU, she returned in Fall 2015 to SUNY Broome to major in criminal justice.
Epply, who will graduate in May, said she appreciated the small class sizes at SUNY Broome, and the skill and knowledge of its professors. She also enjoyed the opportunity to do an internship with a detective in the local district attorney’s office, where she helped interview subjects and helped create a database of crime lab results.
After graduation, she’s planning to stay on at SUNY Broome and earn her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice through the Excelsior College partnership.
“I love the teachers. They know what they are talking about and they’re very helpful,” she said of her SUNY Broome experience. “At BU, I had several classes with 400 students. You don’t get as much interaction with the teachers.”