A Washburn Success Story: Holly O'Neill

An example to students: Holly O'Neill represents many qualities that all Washburn students should exhibit including integrity, friendliness, commitment and professionalism. Her leadership skills and aptitude for teaching forensics have been highly appreciated at Washburn. 

This week Washburn University congratulates faculty member Holly O’Neill, who has been accepted as a member of the prestigious American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). O’Neill is an assistant professor of chemistry at Washburn who has been a part of the university for three years. She teaches several classes including Introduction to Forensics Chemistry, an advanced forensics chemistry lab, a Forensics Science Seminar and a Fundamentals of Chemistry lab class as well.

She graduated from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma and went on to graduate school at the University of Tulsa to finish earning her masters degree in analytical chemistry. After graduation she served in the Kansas Department of Defense for 10 years and analyzed everything from explosives to illegal drugs. O’Neill’s previous experience with the Department of Defense also involved going overseas to examine the explosives being used in improvised explosive devices.

The AAFS is an international multidisciplinary professional organization that provides leadership to advance science and its application to the legal system. The objectives of the academy are to promote professionalism, integrity, competency, education, foster research, improve practice and encourage collaboration in the forensic sciences. In order to be accepted into the organization, O’Neill had to be recommended by a colleague who comes from the same field of forensics that she works with and meet extensive criteria requirements.

O’Neill talked about how she felt when she received the news that she would be accepted into the organization after a meeting Feb. 15.

“I was very pleased because it requires more of a time commitment to apply for membership and you also have to attend the meetings, and it’s not just one of those organizations that you pay membership dues and you’re in,” O’Neil said. “So I was very pleased to be accepted into the organization.”

As part of the AAFS, O’Neill will have to attend regular meetings and keep up with new trends that may arise in the field of forensic science. She expressed the importance of keeping her lab skills fresh as she works with students in forensics on a daily basis who need a guiding hand as they progress toward their degrees.

A colleague of O’Neill, Cait Porterfield, said that there were few more deserving of being accepted into the AAFS than O’Neill.

“I was absolutely excited when I heard she had been accepted. It was well deserved,” Porterfield said. “She is well qualified and a real asset to Washburn University.”

It is exciting to see Washburn faculty such as O’Neill gain such accolades as being accepted into international organizations like the AAFS. A career as a student and a teacher is required along with no small amount of hard work to gain such prestige. O’Neill’s success is a guiding light to other students at Washburn who can use her story as inspiration to shoot for the stars in their respective fields, not just in the forensic sciences but in every field at our university.

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