‘Science is the pursuit of truth’
A story of how an alumni mentor and supportive faculty helped pave the way for a leading criminalist in the field of forensic science.
Andrew Schweighardt ’06 didn’t know what to expect when he first approached his Stonehill professors with the dream of using his degree in biochemistry as the foundation for a career at the intersection of science and criminology.
He knew it was more common for students to seek advice on careers as doctors and pharmacologists and that his quest to become a forensic scientist didn’t fit neatly into that mix. Yet he received a response that would be familiar to countless Stonehill students who have presented their unique vision of success to faculty members:
Go for it.
“All my Stonehill professors always encouraged me as I sought what was at the time a somewhat unconventional career path,” he says. “The faculty at Stonehill helped instill the idea that science is the pursuit of truth — a belief that is the cornerstone of forensic science.”
Today, Schweighardt is a criminalist with the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Department of Forensic Biology. Working with district attorneys from all five New York boroughs is a job he enjoys very much, and his guiding principles align with Stonehill’s emphasis on compassionate leadership.
“Every day, I use science to help people,” says Schweighardt. “My laboratory handles DNA evidence from all the violent crimes in New York City and there isn’t a day that goes by when I am not providing assistance to a victim or a family that has undergone a very traumatic and tragic experience. I also like that my job enables me to reinforce the objectivity and neutrality that are inherent to science.”
Even though he works in a crime laboratory, Schweighardt notes that the lab is managed by the Department of Health, not the NYPD or a district attorney’s office. “So, we are scientists seeking the right answer, no matter whom that answer may favor,” he adds.
His passion and dedication to the field have not gone unnoticed.
At its 2019 annual conference in Baltimore, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences presented Schweighardt with its Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists Regional Award. The honor had added meaning because he had been nominated by Stonehill graduate and mentor Adam Hall ’00, editor of the prestigious “Forensic Science Handbooks” by Saferstein and Hall.
Shortly after graduating from Stonehill, Schweighardt met Hall at a conference and, since then, the two have kept in touch professionally.
“Adam has been a great mentor to me. I am always grateful to have his input and advice, which I have sought on many occasions about job opportunities and other career matters,” says Schweighardt, who also holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in criminal justice, both specializing in forensic science, from The City University of New York.
His bonds with Hall are not the only ones that have stayed with him since his days at Stonehill.
Schweighardt, who also teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Pace University and New York University, still holds several of his Stonehill professors in high regard.
On his first visit to Stonehill, Schweighardt recalls getting a warm welcome from professors Craig Kelley (biology) and Marilena Hall (chemistry), who also took time to give him a personal tour, something he said he did not encounter at other prospective schools.
Noting his years in the Science Department, Schweighardt says, “Some of my favorite classes were taught by Professors Louis Liotta (chemistry) and Magdalena James-Pederson (biology). Professor Maria Curtin (chemistry) was a wonderful mentor and has become a great friend.”
This story contains material originally published in 2019 by the Stonehill Office of Communications and Media Relations.