Nici

Contributor and Smiling Scientist

Forensic Scientist, Forensic Anthropologist, Human ID Specialist

I have been working in a forensic laboratory setting since 1995. Throughout various eras, I have been a drug chemist, a forensic biologist, and a crime scene analyst. I’m also the state forensic anthropologist for our Medical Examiner Division. Messy crime scenes, decomp cases and overall mayhem seem to be in my wheelhouse (not necessarily by choice). I am also a member of DMORT (the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team) and responded to New York City for 6 weeks in October 2001 to locate and identify victims of the terrorist attack on 9/11.

I started my official journey into mindfulness and performance less than a year ago. For years I have been dabbling in mental resiliency and neuro-plasticity mainly because both my granddad and my dad died of dementia-related complications. I’m terrified of succumbing to the same afflictions, so I started to research how to maintain and even increase my brain’s ability to be resilient to the onslaught of dementia.

And, quite frankly, for a large portion of my adult life, I’ve felt like a clueless 4-year-old throwing multiple mental tantrums during most days. Until about 5 years ago, I’ve never really felt the need to be “present”. I’ve only worried about the future, or commiserated with myself about the stuff I’ve done in the past. I would have fake conversations in my head with people; I would berate myself for saying or doing something stupid the day before; I would worry to the point of anxiety about the future. Not having an assigned seat at a concert sends me into a monkey-brained frenzy. You can imagine how I feel about Southwest Airlines.

Then I met my zen master husband (he’s a cop). He has taught me more about being present and enjoying the “now” than anyone I’ve ever met. We started meditating, and then we each took a 3-day Resilience Immersion class for law enforcement with Lt. Rich Goerling. It taught us some concrete, formal meditation practice tools to use for the rest of our lives. As soon as I left that class, I knew I wanted to learn more about mindfulness-based resilience training; I also knew that forensic scientists could benefit greatly from the techniques and resources I had just discovered.

Mindfulness gives me a way to look at and recognize the emotions I am feeling and respond, not react. This is the key to my performance: my skills need to be honed when I head toward trauma, perform through trauma, and hopefully bounce FORWARD due to trauma.

I’m still freaked out by “general admission”. I still think meditation sucks sometimes. But, I’m committed to a lifetime of learning how to build my pre-frontal cortex; how to lengthen my telomeres; and how to boost my neural connections so I have a feisty reserve of brain power when dementia comes a-knockin’.

My goal is to help you find resources for your own journey. Because I’m a student myself, I’m committed to bringing you varied, deep and rich examples of meditative practices I’m learning about, too. I’ll never burn sage in front of you, ask you to chant, or claim to be your teacher. I’d like to build a community of mindful scientists who see the forensic world around them through compassionate, present, and authentic eyes. Welcome to the Smiling Science Alliance.