Jonna Berry

PhD in Analytical Chemistry with a specialization in Forensic Chemistry. 2015

Prepared for Forensics

Research on decomposing pig carcasses was just one of many Iowa State experiences that prepared Jonna Berry for a future working in a crime laboratory.

At Iowa State Berry was able to complete four forensically related research projects, including a two-year project looking at gunshot residue on pig carcasses.

"I was fortunate to work with many research groups during my graduate career which resulted in a number of forensically related research projects," Berry said. "The professors were very collaborative with their research and willing to assist other groups."

Berry’s interest in forensics began at a young age. Her Ph.D. in chemistry from Iowa State and the research she completed, even the parts that were not as hands-on, helped to launch her forensics career.

"Being able to search for journal articles and read them effectively seems like a simple task," Berry said. "But it is something you learn how to do very well in graduate school and has continued to be of use here at the crime lab."

Today Berry works at the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Criminalistics Laboratory in Iowa. She maintains and recertifies breath-testing instruments in the breath alcohol section of the crime laboratory and trains officers on their use. She also works in the toxicology section on new methods to analyze blood samples for certain drugs.

"I enjoy every part of my work," Berry said. "I've worked here for a little over a year and every day is still interesting and there are still many things for me to learn."

Because the field is very competitive, Berry encourages students to seek out experiences in forensic crime labs in order to stand out amid the numerous applicants.

"Getting an unpaid internship at the DCI crime lab was very important and it helped me get experience in a forensic lab," Berry said. "It is important for students pursuing a career in forensic science to be aware and understand that the competition is very high and experience in a forensic lab is crucial."