Rosa Cromartie’s interest in science dates all the way back to elementary school, when she was dissecting animals in science class. “My science and math courses had always been my favorite classes during my primary and secondary education,” Rosa says. “I became interested in chemistry when I got to high school.”
Rosa went on to study Biochemistry and Molecular Biology as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia. Today, she is a doctoral student in FIU’s Chemistry and Biochemistry department and is studying Chemistry with a concentration in Forensic Science. Her current research involves developing a method for detecting synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl analogs, morphine, and codeines, in sweat. Rosa’s recent paper on microfluidics has been designated as a “HOT article” by the editors and reviewers of Analytical Methods. (DOI for research article: 10.1039/C8AY02080A; Citation:Anal. Methods, 2019,11, 587-595). The paper was based on her master’s research project, which was developing a paper-based microfluidic analytical device that is able to presumptively test the presence of biological fluids at crime scenes.
“This paper-based microfluidic device permits a fast, simple, and simultaneous screening of 4 different body fluids,” Rosa explains. “It should prove useful in forensic analysis for individuals interested in sample collection for subsequent downstream laboratory analysis using colorimetric reagents.”
Rosa says that this project was her introduction to serology, the study of biological fluids. “The more that I learned about the field of serology, the more I became interested in it and wanted to continue my work in serology while learning other skills in the field of forensics.”
Several factors contributed to Rosa’s decision to pursue her graduate studies at FIU. First, there was FIU’s presence at most of the conferences that Rosa was attending as an undergraduate. Dr. Sonja Montas-Hunter, then the assistant dean of the University Graduate School, made a big impact on Rosa.
“Her drive and motivation to remember and get me to come to FIU really show me that she cared about me pursuing my graduate studies,” Rosa says. “Even though I had not chosen FIU as my final choice, she was really interested in helping me to go to graduate school, especially for a PhD. The dedication that Dr. Montas-Hunter put into recruiting me was different than any other graduate schools that I was considering. She was passionate, and that is really what I wanted.”
The Bridge to the Doctorate program also drew Rosa to FIU. “In 2015 I received my acceptance into the Chemistry program as a master’s student,” she says. “I also received my acceptance and offer letter for the Bridge to the Doctorate program.”
Once Rosa arrived at FIU, she began interviewing for laboratory positions and discovered that the research being conducted in the chemistry department lined up well with her own research interests. She ended up with an offer to work with her current professor, Dr. Bruce McCord.
A McKnight fellow, Rosa entered the chemistry doctoral program in Fall 2017, continuing her work with Dr. McCord. “His excitement for having me in his laboratory has showed how motivated and passionate he was to helping me towards my goals as a forensic scientist,” Rosa says.
In addition to being a passionate student of math and science, Rosa is also passionate about teaching the subjects to children. “I have served as a lead summer camp instructor for a science summer camp with the City of Miami Gardens,” Rosa says. “I hope to continue to be able to lead as an example in my community and teach the youth about the greatness of STEM.”
In addition to her work with children, Rosa has served two terms as president of the McKnight Doctoral Fellows Graduate Student Organization. She is also one of the founders and the current president of the Forensic Science Graduate Student Organization.
Upon completing her degree, Rosa would like to work in a forensic laboratory, preferably for the military, creating new and innovative work to help society. “I look to work my way up within my career to work as the principal investigator of many projects and continuing to publish as much of my work as possible,” she says.