Chemists in the Real
World: Jared Roop
CRIMINALIST – TOXICOLOGY, MISSOURI S TATE
HIGHWA Y PATROL
During his final year of graduate school, Jared Roop began
an internship with the Missouri State Highway Patrol
(MSHP) Crime Laboratory. He worked as a lab technician,
performing various duties throughout the lab to help
make each section run smoothly. About five months into
his internship, one of the employees who worked in the
Toxicology section resigned. Roop applied for the opening
and was hired.
Roop received his M.S. in chemistry with a focus on analytical chemistry (specifically, electrogenerated chemiluminescence) from Missouri State University in May 2012.
What is your major responsibility
in your current position?
I test biological fluids (particularly blood and urine) for the presence
of alcohol and/or drugs and then write reports of my results that
can be used in a court of law. The types of cases I work include DWI
(driving while intoxicated), DUID (driving under the influence of
drugs), violent crimes where alcohol or drugs might be a factor (i.e.,
homicide or sexual assault), and coroner cases involving a deceased
individual. I am also occasionally required to attend court in order
to report my results in front of a judge and/or jury.
Please describe your typical day on the job.
My days vary widely depending on what tasks I have to accomplish.
Most of the experiments I perform take close to a full 8-hour day.
After performing an experiment, the following one to three days
could be spent analyzing the data, depending on the nature and
magnitude of the experiment. After data analysis, I might spend
half of a day writing reports for those cases. Every case that is
worked is peer-reviewed; the flip side of this is that I spend probably 5–10% of my week peer-reviewing the work of my colleagues.
Some days are completely filled with court-related work. This might
entail studying the results in a case for which I have been issued a
subpoena, as well as traveling to court in a location a few minutes
to several hours away.
Typically, how many days each month do you
spend away from your workplace on travel?
One to five days, generally related to testifying in court cases.
can’t you live without?
All of my confirmation experiments are performed on either a
headspace gas chromatograph (HS-GC) or a gas chromatograph/
mass spectrometer (GC/MS). These are the workhorses of our lab,
and so understanding them and their software programs is criti-
cal. Also, being comfortable with Microsoft Office is important
for the presentations we might give (PowerPoint) and the spread-
sheets we keep for various reasons (Excel). Our set of mechanical
pipets play a crucial role in the success of toxicology, so familiarity
with them is key.
What do you like most about your job?
My job allows me to use the scientific degrees I have in a practical
way. Every day I realize why I learned certain things in school —
such as performing simple extractions — and I see those concepts
applied to a real-world setting. I collaborate with my co-workers,
as well as solve problems and complete projects on my own. It’s
interesting to see how many different processes can be used in
presumptive testing [to determine whether a sample is either
definitely not a certain substance, such as blood, or could be] and
confirmative testing [done to confirm the results of presumptive
testing]. I feel that my job matters in the sense that my reports
and testimony can bring an unbiased truth to a legal situation that
needs to be resolved.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Take advantage of any internship opportunities you have. Prior to
interning with the crime lab, I had no idea of the appeal of forensic
toxicology. Internships also help in building a professional network,
which is also critical to success.
Is there anything else you would
like to mention about your career?
Court testimony is a major part of a career in forensic sciences that
most people do not think about. Being able to communicate effectively and essentially teach what you do to a judge, jurors, and legal
counsel who have little to no training in your field is very important.
Scientists who enjoy explaining their work might find forensics
more appealing than they originally thought.