Pioneers: Student interns in the Forensics Lab

Published on: March 22, 2024

Pioneers: Student interns in the Forensics Lab

While he was reviewing surveillance video during his first day as an intern in the Forensics Lab, Robbie Licciardello witnessed a vehicle theft.

“I saw this van drive by very slow in front of a U-Haul lot. It stopped at the corner. Then guys came walking into the lot, and I saw them steal the trailers,” he recalls.

Licciardello documented what he saw and alerted Detective Joe Walsh, an active member of the Aston Police Department and director of the lab. Walsh handled the investigation from that point, identifying the license plate and tracking down the suspect.

“I felt like a pioneer,” says Licciardello. “I’m the first one to help solve a case at the Forensics Lab.”

Technically, the lab isn’t open yet. It’s still under construction on the first floor of the Abessinio Building with a ribbon-cutting scheduled for Thursday, May 2, and a campus open house set for 2-4 p.m. on the same day.

During Christmas break, however, Dr. Tom Dodds contacted several cybersecurity majors, offering spring semester internships in the lab while it was being built. Licciardello, Matthew Revelas, and Sandra Vijayan jumped at the opportunity. Dalton Cannon joined the group in late February.

For Vijayan, who now wants to pursue a career in the field, the internship has been eye-opening. “The Digital Forensics Lab has amazed me from day one,” she says. “I never had an experience with crime or forensics, and I was surprised to see the equipment and technology that are used to solve cybercrimes.”

According to Revelas, “The internship gives a lot of hands-on experience that you don’t get in the classroom. You learn how classroom theories are applied.”

He even accompanied Walsh on a dispatch call to someone’s home in February. The person had been hacked and had no access to her bank accounts. She was getting emails from the hackers, who threatened to reveal false information about her if she didn’t pay them.

Walsh restored access to the accounts, and helped the woman arrange two-factor authentication.

He envisions a time when as many as five interns could work in the lab, supervised by a police officer or analyst. “The student intern experience is great for resumes,” says Walsh. “They’re working on real cases.”

The Forensics Lab is a public-private partnership created by the Delaware County District Attorney, the Aston Police Department, and Neumann University. It is funded by a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) grant of more than $240,000.





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