G.E.M. Environmental is excited to share another new addition to our monthly blog series - Science Stories. Each month, we interview a STEM scholar, student, or community member and ask them things like why they believe the STEM fields are important, how they got started in their field, to what they would do if they hit the jackpot. We hope that our new blog series will inspire, introduce a variety of fields, and create new conversations.
March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate we are introducing you to Erin Hickson. Erin grew up in south Phoenix, AZ. She went to Northern Arizona University, then transferred to The University of Arizona where she graduated with a degree in Microbiology and a minor in Chemistry.
Erin is a Forensic Scientist and Certified Forensic Artist for the Phoenix Police Department Crime Laboratory, as well as an adjunct professor in Comparative Forensics at Arizona State University West. She started her career with the Phoenix PD as a 9-1-1 Communications Operator and Radio Dispatcher, but soon after she transferred to the Crime Lab as a Laboratory Technician in the Toxicology Section. Erin was then promoted to Forensic Scientist in that section. She transferred to the Firearms Section of the laboratory in 2009 and has worked as a Forensic Scientist in there since. She has been teaching since Fall of last year and she absolutely loves it! Her career as a Forensic Artist started 7 years ago and she has done drawings for Scottsdale PD, Tempe PD, Glendale PD, Phoenix PD, MCSO and she is set to be the next reconstruction artist for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner when their current artist retires.
Why do you believe that the STEM fields are important?
STEM covers so many subjects, that there is something for everyone. There are also endless job opportunities for anyone that pursues STEM fields.
How and why did you get involved in the STEM fields?
I loved science from the first time I was exposed to it. I was truly interested in the Biology side and then realized that I also loved math. I don't think it was one person or one thing that got me interested in it. It just caught my interest and I pursued it. I did not know about the field of Forensic Science or Forensic Art, but, once I learned about them, I knew they were the fields for me! I could use everything I love about science and apply them to both.
Can you describe another aspect of your life or career that is influenced or enriched by the STEM fields that people would find surprising?
I think people see Forensic Art as purely art. They don't think of it being connected to science. In fact, there is a lot of science that goes in to creating a face whether it is a composite or a reconstruction. Forensic Art utilizes knowledge in the fields of Anthropology, Osteology and Anatomy.
Photo- "Aging From Meth" Erin Hickson
What inspires you in your current position/role?
My inspiration is helping people. That is my passion. It is even more rewarding to be able to help others while using my knowledge in my favorite subject, science. I help people in all of my positions as a Forensic Scientist, Forensic Artist and professor.
What work experiences (past or present) have been the most educational for you, and why?
I would honestly say that I learn something on almost every case that I work. I learn about new parts of firearms that have a specific function. I learn about new ammunition on the market. I learn that I excel in new areas. I learn new or improved interview techniques and drawing techniques with every forensic drawing.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I enjoy singing karaoke and once won cash in a karaoke contest. I am also the one that brings my four year old daughter's dolls to life by giving them voices. Elmo is her favorite.
I also started the AZ Forensic Artists Association. When I got started in Forensic Art, I realized that there was no working group for the various forensic artists around the state. Now we have over a dozen artists around the state that work together in helping agencies in Arizona.
You won $10 million in the lotto. What would you do?
I would pay off all my & my husband's debt, set up an account for my daughter, pay off my parent's debt and set up a community for homeless vets. The community would entail tiny houses, a cafeteria, a mental health facility, counselors and a job placement facility. It would help them get the help they need to be either self-sustaining or get them into a facility for mental health.
Erin Hickson is a great example of the impact women make in STEM fields. Thank you Erin for paving the way for young women around the world.
To learn more about Erin and what she does check out the following links:
We are proud to announce our newest recipient of the GEM Environmental College Success Scholarship Award, Amy Effenberger.
Amy is from Las Vegas, Nevada. She enjoys swimming, bowling, and reading as often as she can. She currently runs an advocacy blog for inflammatory bowel disease. She has been doing this since the beginning of February 2020, and feels it is important to shed a light on invisible illnesses and teach others about them. It is found at bowelbee.weebly.com.
"I value a STEM education because it’s the future and we need to be able to advance the future."- Amy Effenberger
Amy is a first generation student who plans to use her scholarship towards paying off her student loans. Congratulations Amy!