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Bloom sits on a rocky ledge by the beach.

Aspiring forensic scientist gets boost from research opportunities

By Mary Hare

Madeline Bloom is an aspiring forensic scientist, a singer in choir as well as a lover of the outdoors.

Many of us know of forensic science from crime TV shows. Madeline Bloom, an incoming senior in honors chemistry, is trying to make it her life.

Bloom did not grow up with a science background. Her mom is a kindergarten teacher, and her dad is a banker at Wells Fargo. “No one in my family does science, so it’s definitely been cool to talk about it with them since they don’t know a lot about it,” she said.

While television might have been her first introduction to forensic science, she became hooked after doing a class report in middle school on what the job was really like. “It intrigued me to know that you can work within the justice system even when you work in a lab,” she explained.

Knowing what she wanted to do early on helped her choose high school classes that would be applicable to her future. It also made her decision for which university to attend a lot easier: “I saw that OSU had a chemistry major with a forensic science option, and that really clicked for me,” said Bloom.

“I think OSU has definitely put together a great course load to get you prepared for a job, and the research opportunities are infinite!”

“Forensics has multiple avenues that people can go down,” Bloom said. She is interested in forensic chemistry and toxicology, which will allow her to conduct toxicology reports to analyze bodily fluids for drug or poisons. “Forensic chemistry usually refers to analyzing physical evidence at the scene for controlled substances, arson or explosives.”

Making the adjustment from high school to college came with challenges she hadn’t expected – like taking three different science classes at the same time. She had to adapt to a new mindset of taking the classes “to learn the material, not just to get a perfect score.”

Bloom began working with chemistry professor Claudia Maier in the OSU Mass Spectrometry Center the winter of her junior year. Under the mentorship of a postdoc in Maier’s lab, Bloom is working to develop a new method for detecting cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her research so far has been remote, but she was able to extend her work into this next academic year with a SURE Science scholarship, which provides a maximum of $5,060 in research funding for science undergraduates. Students are required to present their research in a poster session, which under COVID-19 era guidelines has now been rescheduled for May 2021.

Bloom stands with friends after performing a choir concert in Washington D.C.

Bloom (left) celebrates with friends after performing a choir concert in Washington D.C.

According to the World Health Organization, CVDs are the number one killer in the world – with an estimated 17.9 million people dying from CVDs in 2016. Among these deaths, three quarters have taken place in low- and middle-income countries. Despite these statistics, currently the only technology available to detect and diagnose these diseases is highly invasive, expensive and often ineffective.

In a collaboration with researchers from Oregon Health & Science University, Bloom plans to use mass spectrometry to assist her analysis of certain chemical biomarkers known as oxylipins. Found in plasma, oxylipins are correlated with inflammation that can lead to CVDs.

As a SURE Science scholar, Bloom will use the data she collects over the course of this next academic year for her Honors College Thesis, and will present in the SURE poster session. She is excited to use the opportunity to gain more knowledge that will be applicable to her future career.

“Even if I’m not working in a forensics lab right now, all of the instrumentation and the methods and skills that I’m learning will be applicable to a career or grad school research.”

Although she has not been able to do lab work yet this year, she fortunately was able to get more hands-on experience last summer while working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensic Lab in Ashland, Oregon, assisting in the identification of illegally traded wood species. Bloom helped build their database and reference collections, using mass spectrometers that are similar to the ones required for her research now.

In addition to her research, Bloom has worked as a peer advisor in the Science Success Center since her sophomore year. “It’s been great to connect with new students by helping them register for classes or connecting them to other helpful resources on campus,” she says.

Bloom is also a member of OSU’s premier women’s choir, Bella Voce, where they have been invited to perform around the country, including a spring 2019 performance in Washington, D.C.

Bloom is now applying to graduate schools to pursue a master’s in forensic science, where she plans to further her knowledge and learn how to present evidence in a courtroom. “I think OSU has definitely put together a great course load to get you prepared for a job, and the research opportunities are infinite!”