Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2017


NICK ROBERTS ’10 Nick Roberts has been drawn to the sciences since his high school days in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. While attending community college there, he zeroed in on a specialty: toxicology. An internet search for schools with good forensic toxicology programs led him almost 1,900 miles north to Mercyhurst, where he majored in Applied Forensic Sciences with a concentration in chemistry/toxicology. Not surprisingly, his favorite course was Instrumental Analysis with Dr. Clint Jones, but he says the Mercyhurst program introduced him to other forensic felds as well. That well-rounded education earned him acceptance to a respected master’s program in forensic toxicology at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He returned briefy to the Virgin Islands after earning that degree and taught physics and chemistry at the community college, all the while searching for a job that would get him back into the laboratory. He found it as a forensic scientist with the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, where he tests samples submitted by police departments around the state for the presence of drugs and alcohol. Most of the cases deal with sexual assault, poisonings and driving-under-the- infuence cases, so he’s called frequently as an expert witness in criminal trials. Is his work anything at all like what’s seen on TV? “I honestly don’t watch those TV crime shows,” he says. “But from what I have heard about them – no. Not at all. This is actually one of the frst things you learn in the Intro to Forensics course at Mercyhurst.” Eventually he’d like to manage his own lab, perhaps back in the Virgin Islands once more. Nick’s free time tends to focus on his love for cars, including attending car shows and track events. He’s also working on a car in his garage that he plans to enter in drag racing events.

Brittany McCracken once thought she might follow her dad’s footsteps into a science feld, perhaps pharmacy school. But after completing her Mercyhurst degree in Business Marketing/Chemistry, she turned her full attention to business and never looked back. Today she’s president of FirstLink Research and Analytics, which helps clients explore the potential of new products and technologies they hope to bring to market. Brittany enrolled in the MBA program at Penn State Behrend right after graduation. Exempt from many classes because of the courses she’d completed at Mercyhurst, she fnished in just a year. She enjoyed a co-op assignment with General Electric in international feet program management, acting as liaison between international customers and GE engineers. Once she had her degree, the economy was in a tailspin and jobs weren’t easy to come by. But she soon landed a position as a market research analyst with FirstLink in Pittsburgh. She became a team leader within months, and general manager just a year later. For several years, she and boyfriend Jay Shafer had a long-distance romance. When they became engaged in 2012 and decided to settle near Jay’s job in Erie, she fgured she’d have to look for a new position. Instead, FirstLink’s owners named her president and encouraged her to move the operation to Erie. Today she oversees a staf of about 10 people, mostly analysts located in Erie, including two graduates of Intelligence Studies programs at Mercyhurst. They provide business case analysis and competitive landscape analysis to clients, primarily so far to the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Before leaving Pittsburgh, Brittany completed the Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program at Pitt. “I already had an MBA when I entered the program,” she explains. “However, the Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program took the MBA-type concepts that are relevant to the large corporate world and made them more applicable for rapid, entrepreneurial growth settings.” That certainly describes her company, which has been adding about one new person a year and showing revenue growth in the low double digits for several years. Going forward she hopes to diversify the company’s service oferings and client base to work more with universities, medical research centers and others in the private sector. “I love the fexibility I have to drive the strategy of this company,” she says, “but there are also downsides, things I’ve had to give up along the way – like free time!” She and Jay have a bichon frise named Zoey, and she has a passion for cooking and wines.


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