At the Intersection of Science and the Law:
Schweighardt to Be Honored as Distinguished Young Alumnus
At the 2014 Alumni Reunion to be held on April 24, the Distinguished Young Alumnus Award will be presented to Andrew Schweighardt, who received his master’s degree from John Jay in 2009 and his PhD from the CUNY/John Jay doctoral program in forensic science in 2012. Schweighardt says he has been fortunate that the right paths in life have always seemed to reveal themselves.
“You know it when you see it,” said Schweighardt about recognizing the “right” decision to pursue a graduate degree in forensic science. His research at John Jay, coupled with his serendipitous meeting with a John Jay alumna at a Christmas party, led him to a post-doctoral fellowship with one of the world’s leading intelligence and law enforcement agencies. (A non-disclosure agreement signed by Schweighardt bars him from identifying the specific agency.)
Schweighardt said he was always fascinated by law enforcement, but realized in high school that the life of a police officer wasn’t really for him. “I wasn’t cut out for walking the beat, carrying a firearm and making arrests, but I was interested in the law and science,” he said.
Schweighardt was discreet in describing the classified DNA research he engaged in during his fellowship. “The primary goal of any research laboratory connected to law enforcement or national security is to perform work that contributes to the future, work that might potentially be used by forensic scientists one day, if it is successful,” he said. “I like working with DNA because it is often referred to as the gold standard in forensic science. It is supported by a vast body of knowledge in core natural sciences such as genetics and molecular biology.”
The 14-month fellowship also allowed Schweighardt to receive training in microbial forensics, work that built on the doctoral dissertation he produced under the guidance of Professor Margaret Wallace. This research, which involved a method to identify bacteria that could be used by a bioterrorist, earned Schweighardt the 2012 Best Dissertation Award presented by the John Jay PhD program.
Schweighardt is now back in New York City working as a criminalist in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. He is part of a team of scientists who process evidence for mitochondrial DNA, a less commonly known form of DNA that is often relied upon in challenging cases because of its robustness and resistance to degradation. “It is very rewarding to take the knowledge and problem-solving skills acquired through years of research and apply them to a casework setting,” he said.
Schweighardt attributes his successful and fulfilling career choice to the time he spent at John Jay: “John Jay prepares students for public service, and its dedication to this cornerstone of its mission extends all the way to the faculty. Teaching was a second or part-time career for many professors; a lot of them had done casework for a substantial part of their early career. Classes were so much more interesting when a professor could relate the coursework to an actual case that he or she had once handled. John Jay couldn’t have prepared me better for where I am today.”
As a way of giving back to his alma mater, Schweighardt was recently instrumental in reaching out to alumni to participate in the Jay Walk paver campaign.
“John Jay on the Road” Debuts at the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner
In an initiative aimed at raising John Jay College’s profile while reconnecting with alumni, the first installment of a new engagement program, “John Jay on the Road,” was held on November 13, 2013, at the Office of New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), with a presentation by alumnus and current John Jay faculty member Marcel Roberts (BS ’02, PhD).
Roberts, an assistant professor in the Department of Science, spoke on “Emerging Avenues of DNA Research at John Jay College of Criminal Justice” as part of the OCME Continuing Education Program. Roberts provided a survey of the work of specific DNA-related research groups, and highlighted the resources and training available to students in the forensic science program. His topics included: DNA damage that induces Parkinson’s disease; DNA extraction from bones and isolation of DNA from pokeweed and cocoa plants.
The event was facilitated by alumnus Andrew Schweighardt (MA ’09, PhD), who works as a criminalist with the Medical Examiner’s Office. A number of other John Jay alumni who work at OCME were on hand to welcome Roberts and hear his talk.
“John Jay on the Road” is a new engagement program designed to connect alumni with the College, with each other and with distinguished faculty. In the months ahead, with the help of alumni facilitators, other “John Jay on the Road” events will be held in the New York area and around the country. Stay tuned to Alumni News to learn about future events.
Pictured above: Alumni attending the inaugural “John Jay on the Road” event included (l. to r.) Ashley Morgan Stacey Klempner, Connie Laycock, Andrew Schweighardt, Camille (Lucy) Delaney, Marcel Roberts, Loretta Kuo, Shari Maltz, Samantha Rappa-Giovagnoli, Ziad Shukur and St. Jean Jeudy.
From the Cornhusker State to the Big Apple:
U. of Nebraska President Tapped as New CUNY Chancellor
James B. Milliken, the President of the University of Nebraska system since 2004 and a nationally prominent leader in public higher education, has been appointed as the City University of New York’s seventh Chancellor. The CUNY Board of Trustees, acting on the recommendation of a 16-member search committee, approved Milliken’s appointment on January 16.
Both the board’s and the search committee’s endorsements were unanimous.
Milliken, who holds a law degree from New York University School of Law, has worked with the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Division as well as the blue-chip law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. He has served in numerous leadership roles on the state, national and international levels, including recently representing the United States in the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogues conference in New Delhi with Secretary of State John Kerry. In 2009, the Obama Administration nominated him as a delegate and invited expert to the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris. He has led the development of research and education programs in China, India and Brazil, among other countries.
Prior to assuming the presidency of the University of Nebraska system, he was Senior Vice President for University Affairs at the 16-campus University of North Carolina system.
Benno Schmidt, Chairman of the CUNY Board of Trustees, hailed Milliken as “a highly regarded national leader in higher education [who] brings to CUNY an impressive record of extensive academic and administrative experience and a demonstrated record of success in working with students, faculty, alumni and community leaders to offer quality, affordable higher education.”
Milliken said he was “honored and excited by this appointment to lead America’s premier urban public university,” and cited CUNY’s “world-class faculty, talented students, an outstanding reputation, rising enrollments, increased academic standards and the most diverse student body in the nation” as key ingredients of the university’s “unlimited potential.”
Under Milliken’s leadership, the University of Nebraska made record investments in financial aid, including Collegebound Nebraska, a program that assures that qualifying Nebraska students can attend NU tuition-free. He also oversaw record levels of fundraising for the university, both in governmental support and private donations.
Milliken will take office no later than June 1, 2014. Dr. William P. Kelly is currently serving as CUNY’s interim Chancellor, following the retirement last year of Matthew Goldstein.
Judge Velasquez, BA ’84, Cited by Ecuadorian Consulate
On January 16, alumna Carmen R. Velasquez (BA ’84), was honored by the Ecuadorian Consulate in New York with its Ecuadorian Distinguished Citizen Award.
Velasquez, a New York Civil Court Judge in Queens, is the first Ecuadorian-American sitting judge in the United States. She was honored along with several other Ecuadorian-American attorneys and law students in New York, at a ceremony presided over by Consul General Jorge López Amaya.
They honorees were cited for their knowledge, work and professional ethics in making their mark in the competitive and complex legal environment of New York State.
It Takes a Thief:
Bloodhound Hoopster Leads the Nation in Steals
With several thousand basketball players on the more than 400 college and university teams that make up the NCAA Division III, the player who leads the nation in steals is, fittingly, a junior criminology major from John Jay.
Korede Griffith, a guard who hails from Georgetown, Guyana, has 70 steals through the Bloodhounds’ first 18 games of the season. Both that total and his average of 3.88 per game are tops among D-III schools.
“Korede has really stepped up his defense this season,” said his head coach, Otis Fenn. “He is a leader on and off the court and makes everyone around him better.”
As evidence of that, the Bloodhounds are No. 1 in the nation in steals, with a total of 224 as a team through the first 18 games.
“I just try to put myself in the best possible position and try to anticipate the other team’s offensive schemes,” said Griffith. “For the most part, the steals are coming off of natural instincts.”
Griffith, a multisport athlete at John Jay who has also been a member of the soccer and cross-country teams, is averaging 16.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, both of which are second best on the team. At the John Jay Homecoming game on November 26, which featured the grand opening of the gymnasium’s new Alumni Skybox (see photo below), Griffith poured in 25 points, in one of his best offensive efforts of the season.
The Bloodhounds’ regular season continues through February 18, followed by the CUNY Athletic Conference basketball championship tournament. For details, visit www.johnjayathletics.com.
Pictured above: John Jay alumni gather in the gymnasium’s new Skybox for the Homecoming game on November 26. Front row, l. to r.: Estefania DiBua, Jennifer Lorenzo, Michael Scaduto, Irene O'Donnell, Katarzyna Gershman, Christine Baerga and Corey Punter. Back row, l. to r.: Anthony Phillips, Peter Dodenhoff, Irving Abbott, Maribel Perez, Luis Cortes and Johnny Taveras.