Not quite ‘CSI’, Rasmussen works in forensic science reality

CSI, Castle, Breaking Bad, The Mentalist — UW-Green Bay graduate Amber Rasmussen lives the life that intrigues the masses. Albeit with a bit more reservation and realism than your favorite evening crime series.

Rasmussen is a DNA analyst for the State Crime Laboratory in Milwaukee — “receiving, processing, analyzing and writing reports on the forensic findings of evidence pertaining to crimes which have been submitted to the State Crime Laboratory in Milwaukee for evaluation,” she explains.

“Specifically, as a DNA Analyst, I attempt to identify the presence of body fluids such as saliva, blood and semen on evidentiary items, process items in order to collect any potential DNA and then process any samples collected to develop a DNA profile.”

The combination — of working in the sciences and performing a needed public service — is very fulfilling, she says. Her work doesn’t quite present the “CSI effect” that crime shows are known for.  Still, she enjoys the unpredictability of her job and an opportunity to do her part in piecing together evidence.

“My favorite part of my job is being able to examine evidence and develop DNA profiles from that evidence that help to fit all the pieces of whatever happened together,” Rasmussen said.

The Appleton native earned her degree in biology and human biology in 2003 from UW-Green Bay. After graduation she worked for two years in Bethesda, MD, as a an Intramural Research Training Award fellow at the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health, researching oral wound healing and carcinogenesis.

She completed her master’s degree in forensic science in 2011 from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. While there, she secured a research assistantship in Marshall University’s DNA laboratory. She began working at the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory after graduation.

Currently, Rasmussen is training to be a part of the newly formed Crime Scene Response Team at the Milwaukee laboratory as a photographer documenting the crime scene. The team will add increased coverage throughout the state.

Rasmussen said she felt prepared for work at the graduate school level because of her classes at UW-Green Bay.

“Many of my peers in graduate school expressed concerns that their undergraduate school had not sufficiently prepared them. By contrast, I recognized most of the topics and felt that many of them were a review of what I had already learned while attending UWGB.”

She chose UW-Green Bay for its small class sizes and its reputation for a strong Human Biology program. During her time at UW-Green Bay she was involved in TriBeta, Phi Eta Sigma and her senior year she worked with Dr. Warren Johnson researching the heat stable catabolite modulator factor in E. coli.

“Dr. Warren Johnson was an excellent mentor for helping me to consider my options for after graduation,” Rasmussen said, “and provided insight and support for obtaining a research fellowship and also helped with applying to graduate school.”

One of her favorite memories of being a student was watching Packers games with friends on campus.

“During home games one of the guys would open the window, and yell at the refs if he thought they made a bad call.”

Story by Cheyenne Makinia, editorial intern, Marketing and University Communication