Tyra Volney
Tyra Volney ’23: Hands-On Research Points to MA & Scholarship

Major/Degree: Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
Concentration: Criminalistics
Programs: PRISM, CUNY Justice Academy, Math and Science Resource Center (MSRC)
Hometown: Castries, Saint Lucia
Career aspiration: FBI Forensic Examiner

“My dream is to work for the FBI in a position where I can solve crimes and conduct research that furthers the agency’s investigative goals and initiatives. I hope to build on the experiences I gained at John Jay while earning my master’s degree in forensic science. I’d love to publish research papers and work with forensic scientists across the globe.”

What was life like before John Jay?
I was born in New York but raised in Saint Lucia. After I finished my secondary education, I knew I wanted to go to college. I also knew that meant additional costs for my parents. Luckily, my family encouraged me to go after my dreams. I took a leap of faith, moved to New York, and lived with a family friend. I began my college journey at Queensborough Community College before transferring to John Jay through the CUNY Justice Academy.

Why John Jay?
One of my favorite genres to read growing up was crime fiction—I always found that world fascinating. As I did my research on colleges, John Jay and the forensic science program stood out. Before I applied, I met a John Jay alum, and they had nothing but great things to say about the College. That gave me the green light to go for what I wanted. Being at John Jay has felt like a dream come true.

How has PRISM made your John Jay experience fulfilling?
PRISM has given me the opportunity to get real hands-on research experience, make friends, and discover my passion. From the moment I transferred to John Jay, Dr. E. (Edgardo Sanabria-Valentín) has been there, suggesting scholarship programs, research projects, and learning opportunities. He continually encouraged me to apply for internships, fellowships, and jobs. It’s because of PRISM that I had the chance to participate in the McNair Scholars Research Program at Clarkson University last summer, where I examined saw-mark evidence on bones. Because of John Jay and the PRISM program, I got accepted into three forensic science graduate programs at Sam Houston State University, Syracuse University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Were there any fellowships, internships, or research opportunities that helped shape your career aspirations?
Research has played such an important role during my time at John Jay. It’s affirmed for me that I’m on the right path. During my time at the College, I’ve had a research paper published and had the opportunity to present at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences—which was unbelievable.

For the last two years, I’ve conducted research on pesticides with my mentor, Dr. Shu-Yuan (Demi) Cheng. We specifically focused on the pesticide propazine and the effects it has on human cells. Dr. Cheng encourages flexibility, ambition, outside-the-box thinking, and independence in the lab. She’s made me feel more comfortable in the research environment. As a future forensic scientist, being able to think about the different possibilities is vital and can be a game-changer in any investigation.

What advice do you have for incoming John Jay students?
Do not let fear stop you from saying “yes” to an opportunity. Before I came to John Jay, I was shy and would avoid participating in anything, but John Jay and PRISM changed all that for me. The opportunities presented to students at the College can lead them to accomplish amazing things and reach their goals. This fall, I begin a master’s degree in forensic science program at Sam Houston State University, with a financial aid package worth $14,000 a year. Because of John Jay and the CUNY Justice Academy, I’m on the path to making my dreams a reality. One day, I know I’ll become an FBI forensic examiner.