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Summer Internships: Saule Aoki '24

November 8, 2023

Class Year:  2024
Major:  Biology
Hometown: Washington, D.C 
Internship Organization:  Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences
Job Title:  HCIFS Summer Internship
Location: Houston, TX 

What's happening at your internship? We would love to hear what kind of work you are doing! 

I am an intern with the Harris county institute of forensic sciences, which serves as a crime lab and medical examiner's office. My internship was on the medical examiner's side, though collaboration with the crime labs and ME's office happens often. Each day is a new experience, but usually my day involves the following work: 

1. Attend morning case review. This meeting happens every day and involves all the medical examiners, the neuropathologist, investigations and a representative from the many different departments. All the medical examiner cases from the past 24 hours are presented and assigned. Also, doctors present preliminary findings from their previous autopsy.  

2. Find, scan and upload old fingerprint cards from the institutes old john and jane doe cases. These are fingerprints taken from unidentified people from the 1950s to around 2010. Some prints I've scanned need to be reprocessed with better technology, some were never digitally sent in to the FBI's print lab at all.  

3. Work on my research project. I am analyzing trends in cocaine and fentanyl fatal overdoses, and I have discovered a geographic and temporal pattern to the deaths. I also examined how fentanyl's introduction to the crack cocaine supply is causing clusters of deaths.  

4. Attend any other happenings. Every day is different. I have shadowed forensic anthropology consults, autopsies, attended death scenes, research colloquiums, identification review, and neuropathology exams. 

Why did you apply for this internship? 

I applied because HCIFS is arguably the best medical examiner's office in the country and I like forensics. 

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn't expect? 

Strangely, this internship taught me many ways to examine evidence and conclude information that relies on more than just theory and statistics. Often, theory doesn't match or explain the 'real' world. There are more ways of viewing the world outside of an academic lens. 

Was this internship what you expected it to be? 

No. No one can fully appreciate what interning with a medical examiner's office is like, especially in a county as big and as spirited as Harris County.