Alumni Spotlight

Corrie Maggay ’01
Forensic Scientist
Orange County Crime Lab (CA)

Major: Biology

Minor: Chemistry

Activities: I played lacrosse throughout my four years as an undergraduate. Although I never played, nor heard of, lacrosse before I came to college, I tried out for the team. One of the very first friends I made at Whittier who played lacrosse mentioned that the team needed extra players so I thought, “why not?” At first I wasn’t very good, but I thankfully played with a group of girls that were very patient with me. I got better as the years went on and during my sophomore year we came in first in our division and we won the Division II WWLL championships. 

I was also a member of the Metaphonian Society. I pledged as a junior in 2000. I pledged while taking Quantitative Analysis - not the best idea, but it was a lot of fun (the pledging, not the class). I am currently a sponsor for the society. 

What first attracted you to Whittier College?  I first heard about Whittier College from my high school history teacher, Marvin Sipple, who graduated from Whittier in 1955.  He loved the College and all it had to offer. Mr. Sipple played basketball and was a member of the Lancer Society. He met his wife, Lucia Kelly '55, (a Metaphonian) at Whittier. When I arrived for my tour of Whittier, I wasn’t treated like a number. I have never been one to blend into a crowd, and I felt at home right away at Whittier.

Why did you choose to study biology? I chose to study biology because I love the subject. My parents have always encouraged me to study what I loved and I fell in love with biology my freshman year of high school. During one class, my biology teacher put up a picture of the pathway DNA took to become a protein and I was hooked (NERD ALERT!). But here’s the kicker: I have the memory of a goldfish and anyone who has taken a biology class knows that it involves huge amounts of memorization. Of course, my professors wanted me to understand the concepts, but for the most part, memorization was key. I had to figure out how I learned best: rewriting/reorganizing my notes using different colored pens and highlighters, making flash cards, and using a ton of mnemonic devices - most of them were either related to food or were sexual in nature.

Describe your experience at Whittier College. What was your favorite class? At Whittier, I found that I didn't have to choose between school, playing a sport, being in a society, working, and having a social life. I was able to do it all and I felt as if I was supported by my professors. At Whittier, you don’t (and because of the small class sizes, can’t) get lost in the crowd. My favorite classes were the hands-on classes, such as anatomy/physiology, botany, marine biology, and so on.

Did you intern while at Whittier College? Where, and what was that experience like? I didn’t have an internship, but I did have an on-campus job in the athletic center and an off-campus job as a waitress at Ruby’s Diner. In all honesty, with all of time I had to dedicate to labs for biology and chemistry, my assignments, and studying for tests, I wanted to give myself time away from science so I didn’t get sick of it.

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefitted you professionally? My first job after Whittier was working at a free clinic in San Diego and as a waitress at Ruby’s Diner. After college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, but I definitely knew what I didn’t want to do. I knew I didn’t want to go into research and, after working at the clinic, I knew, without reservation, that I didn’t want to go into medicine. I learned about forensics after I graduated from Whittier. Forensics sounded interesting and to be able to work in most fields of forensics, a background in science is required. In 2002, I set out to earn a Masters in Forensic Science. After the first day in my first graduate class, I knew forensics was where I was supposed to be. I interned at the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) laboratory in San Diego and, after graduating with my MFS, I worked for the Department of Justice in their DNA laboratory in Richmond, CA. I currently work for the Orange County Crime Lab in the DNA department and I am in training for the CSI team.

Since Whittier is a liberal arts college, I was able to take courses that were outside of my major and still graduate on time. Additionally, the classes that were offered to obtain a degree in biology from Whittier were broad in nature (i.e. cellular biology, botany, marine biology, and so on). I felt like I received a broad understanding of biology. I had the chance to explore the realm of biology without being pigeon-holed into a specific topic.

What advice would you give to future biology students when they graduate? Two things: First, whatever career you end up choosing, do it because you want to do it. Don’t choose a career to please your family or to prove something to the world. If you don’t know what you want to do after you graduate, don’t worry. Most people don’t know what they want to do after college. Find what makes you happy and do it! Secondly, always wear clean underwear.

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… There have been multiple times in my life when I have said to myself, "If I could get through ‘blank’, I can get through this". Most of those fill in the blanks (i.e. the pledging process, organic chemistry, quantitative analysis, late night practices for lacrosse, calculus, a broken heart, weekends filled with little to no sleep, and last minute trips to Vegas) took place at Whittier College.

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