On an average day, Noah Hamlett deals with drugs. Methamphetamines. Marijuana. Heroin. Fentanyl. You name it, and he handles it in his role as a special agent forensic scientist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).
In fact, Hamlett is just one of many Bluefield University graduates finding success and fulfillment in life after college, thanks to their BU science studies. A 2017 Bluefield University graduate, Hamlett points to the training and experiences he had in BU’s University of Sciences – the long hours in classes, the one-on-one time with faculty, and the time spent working with solvents in the college’s laboratories – helping him to land his dream job.
“The professors have done a great job to tailor their lesson plans and experiments for real-world application,” said Hamlett. “Dr. (Joe) Saunders, my chemistry professor, and Dr. (Emily) Lambert, my biology professor, put in extensive work to make sure I had all the resources, procedures, and instruments I needed to be successful post-college. The science program, as a whole, is extraordinary with extraordinary people representing it.”
Hamlett said he was fascinated with science in high school. It was his strongest subject. But, he always found himself drawn to the application of science to the criminal justice field. That led him on a quest to find a college that gave him both the proper tools to be successful in a career and one that offered a forensic science major.
In the summer between his junior and senior years at Bluefield University, Hamlett was accepted into the National Forensic Academy Collegiate Program, an intensive three-week training program designed for criminal justice undergraduate and graduate students. Hosted at the University of Tennessee-Martin, the program provides training and hands-on experience in crime scene management, digital photography, latent fingerprint processing, crime scene mapping, forensic anthropology, shooting incident reconstruction, and bloodstain pattern analysis. With his Bluefield University forensic science degree and the training from National Forensic Academy, he applied for the job with TBI and has been there ever since.
But, Hamlett’s not the only recent BU science graduate to find success after college. Ben Thurman, a 2009 alumnus with a chemistry education degree, currently teaches at Liberty High School in Bedford, Virginia. However, his experience at Bluefield University and eventual success thereafter nearly never happened.
“One of my friends was coming to visit during an open house, and I decided to tag along,” said Thurman, who admitted he had never heard of Bluefield University until his senior year in high school. “I instantly knew that BU was going to be my college.”
And he’s thankful it was, not just for the rigor of the academic experience that prepared him for his career, but also for the personal attention and relationships that provided added value to his higher education.
“As most Bluefield students will agree, the personalized attention is a definite draw to Bluefield,” said Thurman. “The small class sizes just can’t be replicated elsewhere. If I ever had a question, it was no trouble to go see a professor. Other colleges and universities are likely to send you to a teaching assistant. At Bluefield, you get the real deal, and there’s no replacement.”
After earning his degree, Thurman found himself back in Bedford, his hometown, looking for work. Chemistry teaching jobs, he said, are relatively hard to find since school systems only have a few of those positions at most, and rarely do such positions involve teaching just chemistry. But, he was fortunate to find exactly what he was looking for and now, he said, he spends each and every day demonstrating to students how important science really is.
“I have the job I have now simply because God opened the door for me at the right place and right time,” said Thurman. “His timing is always perfect. I wanted to be local to my hometown, and the job opened in a local school. I applied and got the job.”
Ben Scearce, a 2016 BU grad, said that he’s using his training from Bluefield University to help grow and move his career, even though he isn’t employed in a science-oriented field. While science has always been one of his passions, he currently works at a private security firm that specializes in commercial security consulting. His training at Bluefield University, he said especially in the sciences, allowed him to refine critical thinking skills that are useful in all areas of life, no matter the career path.
“The biggest thing the Science Department prepared me for was the ability to critically think my way through any situation,” said Searce. “The scientific method is not only limited to experiments and classroom settings. It can be manipulated, while keeping the basic concepts and system, in any situation in life. Whether it be a problem at work, preparing yourself for the future, or working through the cause-and-effects of a decision that needs to be made, the critical thinking aspect is one of the most important tools I acquired through the Science Department.”