Seventeen-year-old Melissa Denish was obsessed with television crime shows.
That obsession gave rise to inspiration.
So, the Abington Senior High School student applied for and was accepted to the Forensic Sciences Mentoring Institute.
The institute, a program sponsored by the nonprofit Frederic Rieders Family Foundation in Abington, selects 12 local high school students out of approximately 50 applicants to work in its laboratory for eight weeks every summer, said Mandy Mohr, the program director. The aim of the foundation, started and eponymously named by a renowned forensic toxicologist who testified in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson and other high-profile cases, is to provide a variety of science education that students otherwise wouldn’t receive in high school.
Many students come to the institute with the same mindset as Denish, said assistant program director Alex Krotulski. While they quickly find out that forensics is more tedious and complicated than portrayed on television, the program provides the students with real forensics lab experience, where they test samples and “evidence” created by laboratory staff, he said.
Students are divided into three groups to study three branches of forensics — toxicology, biology and chemistry. Through these respective branches, they learn how to use different forensics technology, how to work with and test different materials, and the importance of each scientific discipline.