Meet a few people who have greeted challenging circumstances as opportunities for a new kind of success.
(page 4 of 8)
A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Giffin, 37, graduated from Gannon College. She moved to Delaware in 1995 to work as a synthetic chemist at the DuPont Company. Four years later, after a round of cutbacks eliminated her position, she became a quality assurance chemist at AstraZeneca where, for the next eight years, she tested compounds for purity before they were released on the market. In late 2007 she was approached by her supervisor, who said that planned cutbacks by the company would likely include her.
She decided to seek a new position. Giffin saw a few openings for chemists at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She interviewed, was offered her choice of positions, and chose forensic sciences. She was anxious about making the large leap from quality assurance to forensics—as well as a 20 percent cut in salary—“but it was still chemistry, and I’ve always been so drawn to forensics, the mystery of it, and the chance to help solve equations,” she says.
“Sometimes you just need to take a gamble,” she says. “I’ve sacrificed for where I am, but sometimes you’re put in a position where you have to make a change, but the fact is that the change I had to make has enabled me to find something I love to do.”
Giffin is developing ways for the department to conduct more in-house analysis, but case studies take priority over research. Giffin and her co-workers mostly analyze DUI cases, but also work on vehicular homicide cases, suicides, infant fatalities, deaths from overdose and occasional rape cases. She doesn’t see the faces of the victims or perpetrators. Her role is purely analytical, but her impressions can solve a case, answer old questions, or leave a permanent imprint.
“When I worked at DuPont, I saw how a drug was made, scaled up and mass marketed,” she says. “When I worked at AstraZeneca I saw how a drug was manufactured and tested for quality assurance. The work I do now as a forensic chemist can potentially make a difference to families.
“I wouldn’t be doing this job if I didn’t already appreciate the beauty in the details.”
Page 5: Fresh Starts, continues...