2016 has been a pretty awful year for women in the United States. Between Brock Turner’s horrendous rape trial and President-elect Donald Trump’s publicized misogyny, it’s discouraging to see the prevalence of rape culture go unnoticed and unpunished. But women have a new hero battling injustice in their midst, and instead of wearing a cape, she wears a lab coat.
Dr. Candice Bridge is the first black woman to teach chemistry at the University of Central Florida, an already substantial achievement in itself. But now she has been given a substantial grant of $324,000 by the National Institute of Justice. The purpose of the NIJ grant was to pursue alternatives to DNA testing while using resources of which only the FBI and certain forensic labs have access, according to a press release. Bridge intends on using the money to research ways to improve investigative methods in sexual assault cases, reports the Atlanta Black Star.
“This grant will enable us to conduct research into a unique new means of identifying perpetrators of sexual assault when traditional DNA evidence doesn’t exist,” she explained in the release. “It’s an important line of research that has become even more important as rapists attempt to elude capture by covering their DNA tracks after an assault.”
The 12-person team will examine the lubricants exchanged during a sexual assault using the NIJ grant. Bridge will also look at how the body can break down fluids after an assault but before forensics experts can test it using a supplementary monetary award provided by her university. And if that wasn’t enough, the chemist is also working with the Orlando Public Defender’s Office to help attorneys understand what forensics can realistically do.
Bridge herself is a force to be reckoned with. At the age of 25, she became one of the first people in the United States to receive a doctorate in forensics. She was then the first woman to become a professor in Howard University’s chemistry department. Before Bridge earned her spot at UCF, she had worked for the U.S. Army’s Defense Forensic Science Center. Her resume is particularly impressive, given that women in general (but especially black women) are extremely underrepresented in science and technology careers.
Women everywhere can breathe a little easier knowing that this talented chemist is on the case.