Alexa D’Arienzo (’22) Wins the Pauley Perrette Forensic Science Scholarship

Alexa D’Arienzo (’22) Wins the Pauley Perrette Forensic Science Scholarship

Alexa D’Arienzo (’22) Wins the Pauley Perrette Forensic Science Scholarship

It’s not surprising that Alexa D’Arienzo (’22) is our first recipient of the Pauley Perrette Forensic Science Scholarship. Her love of science, empirical data, and problem solving have been a focus in her life for as long as she can remember—the Biology classes she’s thrived in, her science-oriented jobs, and even the scientific television shows she’s inclined to watch.

“I’ve always enjoyed doing labs in school. One of my favorite experiments in high school was when we went to the DNA Learning Center and we got to do a gel electrophoresis test. That's when you make a Jell-O brick and then insert DNA into different cavities,” D’Arienzo enthusiastically explains. “After 30 minutes the DNA moves, and based off of how far it moves you can compare that sample to other DNA samples. It was exciting to know that they do something similar for paternity tests and DNA comparisons.”

Her interest in science and desire to solve crimes helped D’Arienzo zero in on John Jay as the right College for her. “I only applied to five colleges,” says D’Arienzo. “First, I looked at which school was the best for Forensic Science. Then, with the added chance to learn about Forensic Science in a criminal justice setting, I knew that John Jay was the right fit for me.”  We sat down with this Long Island native to learn more about her goals for the future, her scholarship win, and what it means to be a woman in science.

Now that you’ve completed one semester at John Jay, what work have you done that really interested you?
I took Chemistry 103 in the fall, and this semester I'll be taking Chemistry 104. In Chemistry 103 we did a lot of labs with Bunsen burners and different chemicals and measurements. It was more of an intro into how to work your way around the lab. I really enjoyed the aluminum-zinc anode lab we did in that class. For this experiment we put an aluminum wire in a mixture and everything started to become attracted to the wire. It was cool to see the different reactions.

What do you hope to do with your major once you graduate?
I really want to work in a crime lab, helping to solve crimes. I enjoy the hands-on work, and it would be nice to get justice for the victims, all while doing something that I like.

Alexa D'Arienzo

“This scholarship eases the financial stress on my entire family, and because of it, I’m going to get one step closer to my goal.”— Alexa D’Arienzo

What would you say is the interaction between forensic science and criminal justice?
Forensic science provides almost 100 percent facts without bias. Whatever the results are of a test—whether good or bad—those are the results. Science helps to inform us about what happened during a crime. When you’re on trial, you can say anything and it doesn't have to be true. But, if you back it up with facts and proven scientific evidence, it solidifies your case and proves what really happened. 

What does it mean to you to be the first winner of the Pauley Perrette Forensic Science Scholarship?
It means that I don’t have to focus on financial issues. I can focus on studying and my academic career. The tuition is not incredibly expensive, but I have to work two jobs—I work in a bakery and a church rectory. This scholarship eases the financial stress on my entire family, and because of it, I’m going to get one step closer to my goal.

Pauley Perrette’s groundbreaking character on NCIS showcased a woman succeeding in a field where women have been traditionally underrepresented. What are your feelings about women pursing careers in math and science?  
I'm not sure why a lot of women don't pursue math and science, maybe because they’re seen as difficult majors. I also think that the science community wasn’t always welcoming to women. Now, times are changing, and there's not as much of a gender issue, especially for women working in the science field. Being a woman in this field just proves that you can do what you love, regardless of what others say. Winning this scholarship shows that even more.

“Without Pauley Perrette and John Jay, I wouldn't be able to pursue a forensic science career and go on to work in a crime lab, solving crimes, and helping those in need.”—Alexa D’Arienzo

If Pauley Perrette was standing in front of you right now, what would you like to say to her? 
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do what I love without having to worry about financial needs. Thank you for giving me the ability to pursue science as a woman. Without Pauley Perrette and John Jay, I wouldn't be able to pursue a forensic science career and go on to work in a crime lab, solving crimes, and helping those in need.