Forensic Science Major Hannah Lanham Interns with Dr. Cyril Wecht, Fayette County Coroner's Office Student Profile
Photo by Nadia Jones '25
Meet Hannah Lanham '24
- Job Title & Employer
- Intern, Fayette County Coroner's Office, Dr. Cyril H. Wecht Pathology Associates
- Forensic Science
- Biological sciences, chemistry and criminal Justice
- College Activities
- Society for Intelligence and National Security
- Belle Vernon, Pa.
- High School
- Belle Vernon High School
- Dream Job
- Forensic autopsy technician
- Hobbies & Interests
- I love to read, spend time with my friends and roommates and take advantage of the things to do on campus and in Pittsburgh as a whole!
"The education I have received at Point Park so far has prepared me tremendously for working in the field. I was able to connect my classroom knowledge to real-life tasks and cases. I experienced a lot of the concepts that I learned in my classes with Dr. Ed Strimlan and applied the skills I developed in the classroom directly to the field."
When Point Park University interviewed Hannah Lanham '24 last year, she was loving city life and enjoying her hands-on courses in forensic science with Edward Strimlan, M.D., associate professor and coordinator of the forensic science program.
"My experience has only heightened since our last interview," she said. "It is crazy to look back on how much I have grown since then and everything I was able to accomplish."
Hannah completed internships with Dr. Cyril H. Wecht Pathology Associates and the Fayette County Coroner's Office, during which she gained hands-on experience in securing a scene, taking photos and collecting information, conducting autopsies, processing toxicology reports, writing death certificates and more.
"I was able to build connections within my county and open doors to possible job opportunities for post-graduation, which is incredible," she said. "I feel like I have a greater understanding of where I want to head with my degree. I enjoyed working alongside a pathologist, as well as the state troopers and detectives present for certain cases. I never thought I would want to head toward the criminal justice end of the spectrum, but after having that experience, I added my third minor in criminal justice."
In the Q&A below, learn more about how far Hannah has come in her Point Park journey.
How did you land your internships?
I had recently been denied an internship in Allegheny County I had my heart set on doing. My roommate told me to reach out to Dr. Wecht’s office about shadowing an autopsy because “The worst thing he can say is no." I sent an email explaining how much I have looked up to his work and asked if there were any opportunities within his office for internships or job shadowing. After a week, I got a call asking if I would be interested in shadowing a case. It just snowballed from there, and the pathologist and autopsy technician both asked me if I would want to come in and help regularly. I was able to work with my professors about days I would possibly miss class and ways I could make up any work if needed. In the wise words of my Zombie Cinema professor, “You don’t tell Cyril Wecht no."
From that experience, I was able to get the internship with the Fayette County Coroner’s Office, as I had worked with their deputy coroner/body specialist throughout my time with Dr. Wecht’s office.
What were your duties and responsibilities, and what did you learn?
At Dr. Wecht’s office, I was responsible for taking external and internal images of the cases, as well as documenting all of the necessary details on the body sheet. Eventually, the autopsy technician trained me on other aspects, and I was able to complete most of the external exam alone, as well as some of the internal exam. I was also trained in preparing histology slides and delivering them to the histology lab.
With Dr. Phillip E. Reilly’s office in Fayette County, autopsies were done through Dr. Wecht’s office, so I would still go there often to assist with cases. I learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes work of this field, including death certificates, toxicology reports, contacting funeral homes, involvement with the Pennsylvania State Police and more. Dr. Reilly made sure I was getting hands-on experience with learning how these processes work. I also went to the scene of some death calls if there was no immediate risk factor and worked with the deputy coroner/body specialist on getting information, taking photos and doing the removal. Most cases were directly involved with the police so I was able to see how they process information, too.
How did your internships connect with the education you’re receiving at Point Park?
The education I have received at Point Park so far has prepared me tremendously for working in the field. I was able to connect my classroom knowledge to real-life tasks and cases. I experienced a lot of the concepts that I learned in my classes with Dr. Ed Strimlan and applied the skills I developed in the classroom directly to the field.
You recently added a criminal justice minor and joined the Society for Intelligence and National Security on campus. What impact has this had on you?
These activities have greatly enhanced my experience here at Point Park! By getting involved with criminal justice and intelligence studies, I've really expanded my network, and I'm able to explore fields related to forensics and see what other opportunities are out there. I've established greater connections with students, activities and professors.
How would you describe the campus feel at Point Park?
Point Park is such a diverse, inclusive and tight-knit community right in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh. I am grateful to be at a university where you are still in the hustle and bustle of a city but get the small-school benefits of close relationships with professors and small class sizes.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I thank myself every day for choosing Point Park University. I have built some of the best friendships here and could not be any more grateful. I'd like to send a big shout-out to Dr. Strimlan for sticking with me along the way and being my advisor over the summer! He is truly one of my favorite professors.
The best advice I can give to other students regarding internships is to never be afraid to reach out because the worst answer you can get is no. Dealing with rejection is still something I am working on, but if I had not listened to my roommate and never reached out to Dr. Wecht, I would not have amassed even half of the real-world experience I have so far. I cannot wait to look back even a year from now and see what else I have done!