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Alumna First to Pursue Master’s in Forensic Investigation

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – FEBRUARY 28, 2012 – Cassandra Cavazos is the first UTB and TSC forensic investigation graduate to be accepted into the master of science in forensic science program at Sam Houston State University, where she will begin her studies in August of this year.

Cavazos received her Bachelor of Science in chemistry from The University of Texas at Brownsville in May 2011. She continued her studies to achieve her Associate of Arts degree in forensic investigation from Texas Southmost College in December 2011.

“Cassandra tied a previous student in the highest academic achievement in our program; she did equally well on her national Certified Crime Scene Investigator practice exam,” said Michael Lytle, Associate Master Technical Instructor and Forensic Investigation Program Coordinator for the Department of Criminal Justice.

Cavazos is a 2007 graduate from San Benito High School where she participated in a pre-nursing program.

“After rotating through the hospital wards, I decided nursing wasn’t my calling,” she said. “Then when I took biology and chemistry in college, I realized my place would be behind the scenes, doing laboratory work of some sort.

Cavazos credits Dr. Arnulfo Mar, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science, for making chemistry come alive for her, and said she was lucky to get a campus job as Mar’s laboratory research assistant during her senior year.

In March of last year, she finished second place in the chemistry division for her research project at the 13th Annual Research Symposium where she presented a biochemical analysis on plantain peels to determine any possible effectiveness they might have in lowering blood sugar in diabetics. Cavazos said her mother is diabetic and this has given her an interest in the science of the disease.

As a forensics investigation student, Cavazos attended classes in legal issues and technical procedures. The capstone exercise was a mock crime scene training event when students don personal protective gear and, armed with cameras and cases of specialized tools and equipment, attempt to determine the answers to clues at a crime scene simulated by Lytle.

“That class is fascinating and fun, and we all learned a lot,” Cavazos said. “One of our exercises during the field day is to cast footprints, and I was pleased to get really good results on my cast.”

Cavazos said she will earn her master's in forensics and see where that takes her.

“Pharmacy school was in the back of my mind if Sam Houston State didn’t work out,” she said. “I might combine my two interests and specialize in forensic pharmacology. When school is over, I like the idea of working for the FBI; I would hope to have a career there someday.”

Chemistry and criminals aren’t Cavazos’ only interests. She studied French and fulfilled a dream of going to Paris for study abroad last summer. The group of 19 college students attended classes in the morning, spent the afternoons on field trips, and then continued their studies in the evening.

“Paris was wonderful, beautiful and full of history,” she said. “We gained so much by just being there, and my French really improved. Also, I made some new friends and we still keep in touch.”

Cavazos is the first in her family to earn a university degree. She has two cousins attending UTB and her aunt will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in education at May commencement.

“I’m happy for her,” Cavazos said. “I know what a great feeling it is to walk across the stage at commencement.”

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