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Student Achievement Chris McCauley February 07, 2024

Photo of Brynnen Hendrix poses in a research lab in the University Boulevard Office Building (UBOB)

When Brynnen Hendrix arrived at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she knew she wanted to study genetics. She wasn’t sure where that interest would lead her, though.

“I changed majors a lot—I kind of jumped around,” said Hendrix, a graduate student in the master’s in forensic science program within the J. Frank Barefield, Jr. Department of Criminal Justice.

Although she explored numerous majors—eventually deciding on chemistry—one thing remained constant throughout her undergraduate career: enrolling in courses with Jason Linville, teaching associate professor in the J. Frank Barefield, Jr. Department of Criminal Justice.

“I started taking elective forensic science courses with Dr. Linville, and that’s when I looked into a forensic science minor,” said Hendrix. “I think I took all of the classes that Dr. Linville teaches.”

Specifically, Hendrix appreciated the ways in which chemistry intersected with criminal investigations in forensic science courses. And, as her interest in the discipline came into focus, so did her career goals.

“I would love to get into a DNA lab… I’m just really hoping to be able to get into [solving] cold cases or genetic genealogy,” said Hendrix. “[Genetic genealogy] seems like the future of genetic testing in forensic science.”

As Hendrix approached graduation in December 2021, she started having conversations with Linville about whether she should enroll in the Master of Science in Forensic Science program. At the time, she’d recently become a mother, so she wanted to determine if the program would work with her new (and busy) schedule.

“I was really concerned about the course load,” said Hendrix. “I talked to [Linville] and some of the graduate teaching assistants. [I asked them], ‘Is it worth it to come to graduate school for forensic science? What are the pros and cons?’ I listened to what everyone had to say and decided to continue to pursue my education.”

After receiving thoughtful mentorship from Linville and others in the department, Hendrix decided the program would be a good fit for her schedule and career goals. And, according to Hendrix, it was the right decision.

“There’s a lot of accommodation that I really do appreciate from the faculty,” said Hendrix. “They’re really understanding about my situation. It’s much more manageable that I thought it was going to be.”

Now, she’s finishing her thesis and preparing to graduate this upcoming April. As she reflects on her time in the forensic science program, she calls attention to the close-knit community that exists between the students and the faculty.

“The program is a lot smaller than I expected… so we all get a lot of hands-on, individualized mentorship,” said Hendrix. “I do really appreciate that… it’s much more personable. I feel like I’m able to connect with the professors on a more personal level.”

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