Makenzi, with curly hair, smiles in a white lab coat next to a microscope. Makenzi, with curly hair, smiles in a white lab coat next to a microscope.
Forensic Biology major Makenzi Patterson in the Kieckhefer Foundation Forensic Lab on the Prescott Campus. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Connor McShane)

Under the Microscope
with a Forensic Biology student

Story by Ashley Mueller
Ashley Mueller headshot.

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Student Makenzi Patterson is pursuing her passion in the Forensic Biology field as she gains extensive hands-on experience at Embry-Riddle.

Makenzi Patterson (’25) grew up in Avondale, Arizona, a western suburb of Phoenix, with a growing curiosity and passion for the science realm. 

“I always enjoyed watching “NCIS,” Bones” and “Forensic Files,” so I took a forensic science class my junior year of high school and loved it,” she shared. “I love how fascinated I feel when learning about the techniques and really knowing how to do something that most people don’t know how to do... I love how impactful forensic science is to the community.” 

Her fascination and growing interest in the forensic field led her to start her journey at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and pursue a B.S. in Forensic Biology

The Embry-Riddle Advantage 

Patterson discovered Embry-Riddle when a representative visited her high school to showcase the Forensic Biology program. The presentation left a lasting impression on her, as she realized that pursuing her passion and interests in the forensic field could be achieved through Embry-Riddle. 

“I chose Embry-Riddle because I loved the location, and the small class sizes allow me to excel academically,” she said. “As soon as I came on my visit to the school, I knew it was going to be the perfect fit!” 

Patterson not only benefits from its convenient location and the class sizes, but she also takes advantage of state-of-the-art labs and enjoys direct connections to expert industry-leading faculty. 

“There is a very good student-to-professor relationship, where the professors are willing to help students succeed and tailor their lectures to their students’ needs... I also like that each of my professors has industry experience,” she expressed. “I have had great experiences, like touring the Phoenix Crime Lab, listening to amazing stories told by my professors that help apply what we are learning in lectures to real-life situations and more.” 

Finding the Right Program 

The Forensic Biology program is designed for students, like Patterson, who are interested in biology, chemistry and law — giving students the skills and background needed by professionals in forensic science laboratories, law enforcement and other related fields.  

“My favorite part of the program is the lab experience. The access to high-tech instruments and real lab procedures used in forensic laboratories is preparing me for when I attend an internship and join the workforce,” she said. “It’s extremely rewarding to learn proper lab techniques on such high-tech instruments because I will be able to show up to an internship or job already knowing how they work and what not to do!” 

In addition to receiving lab experience, Patterson said one of her greatest academic accomplishments was being offered a teacher’s assistant (TA) position for Dr. Hillary Eaton, the Program Chair of Forensic Biology. 

“I feel honored that Dr. Eaton not only sees my potential academically, but also notices my hard work and trusts me with all the responsibilities of being a TA,” she continued. “Honestly, my whole college experience is such a big achievement, and I’m proud of how well I am doing. I shock myself at the end of every semester when I realize I got through it and continue to make the Dean’s List.”

Makenzi Patterson and members of the WAA gather on Embry‑Riddle's Prescott Campus after painting the Spirit Rock. (Photo: Makenzi Patterson)
Makenzi Patterson and members of the WAA gather on Embry‑Riddle's Prescott Campus after painting the Spirit Rock. (Photo: Makenzi Patterson)
Makenzi poses with three friends in front of a wall of windows.
Makenzi Patterson, shown here with two other officers of the Forensic Honor Society. (Photo: Makenzi Patterson)

On-Campus Involvement 

Since stepping foot on the Prescott Campus, Patterson has gotten involved and dedicates much of her time toward several clubs and organizations, including the Pre-Health Sciences Club, Women's Ambassador Association and the International Forensic Honors Society, Chapter Beta Eta. She shared, “I like being involved in clubs that encourage good academic integrity but are also an outlet to have fun and do activities outside of school.”

The Women’s Ambassador Association aims to encourage the empowerment of women both on campus and in nearby schools. Patterson explained that they focus heavily on promoting women in STEM fields and engage in outreach programs in middle and elementary schools.

“We introduce scientific activities to kids, and we put on lots of fun events on campus... One of our biggest and most impactful events is Shadow Day, in which we take incoming students with our same major around campus and to our classes for the day,” she said. “It really helps the incoming students get a good feel for what an everyday Embry-Riddle experience is like.” 

Additionally, Patterson serves as the president of The International Forensic Society, Chapter Beta Eta, in which she works to fulfill the mission that’s dedicated to supporting academic achievement, promoting community understanding and advancing the field of forensic science. 

“The International Forensic Honor Society, Chapter Beta Eta, is newer to the Prescott Campus but is beginning to flourish! During meetings, we engage in fun forensic activities, like solving a crime involving all aspects of the forensic field, including forensic biology, forensic psychology and forensic accounting,” she explained. “We also organize fundraisers on campus by raising money for different charities... During National Native American Heritage Month, we held a fundraiser to help Native Hope, in which they raise money to find and identify murdered and missing indigenous women.” 

Patterson’s dedication to on-campus involvement continues to grow her passion for the forensic field while opening doors to new industry opportunities.  

She shared, “This February, I will be joining the other officers of the International Forensic Honors Society at the American Academy of Forensic Science Conference in Denver, Colorado. Forensic scientists from all over the country will be attending, giving speeches and recruiting interns... It’s such a great opportunity that I’m looking forward to.” 

Inspiration and Motivation 

When asked about what advice she gives to new and current students trying to find their way at Embry-Riddle, Patterson has some insight to offer.  

“Do not compare yourself or your journey to anyone else’s... Comparison can really hold people back from reaching their full potential, so acknowledge what you need to succeed academically and do just that!” 

As for her motivation to continue her journey in the industry, Patterson spoke about wanting to make a lasting impact in the forensic community and beyond. 

“I want to be just one more woman of color represented in the industry... I’m able to represent my community and show that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. I also want to contribute to solving cold cases and find new ways of identifying skeletal remains. It seems that forensic anthropologists have kept to their same ways of identification for many years, and I’m hoping to change that.”

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