Alumni Profile: Gratitude Leads to ‘Pay It Forward’ Gift

Alumni Profile: Gratitude Leads to ‘Pay It Forward’ Gift

Alumni Profile: Gratitude Leads to ‘Pay It Forward’ Gift

Dr. Nikolas Lemos (M.S. ’96) is forever grateful for an opportunity given to him as a John Jay graduate student, and to show it he decided to “pay it forward” and give a current student the same experience.

“Back then,” he recalled, “I was lucky enough to have Professor Arvind Agarwal help me put together a research project that I presented at the annual meeting of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT), which was held in my native Greece in 1995 and which truly changed my life forever.”

Lemos is now Chief Forensic Toxicologist and Director of the Forensic Laboratory Division in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the City and County of San Francisco. Earlier this year, he came up with plan to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his graduation from John Jay with a master’s degree in Forensic Science, and honor his late mentor, Professor Agarwal. He wanted to sponsor a current graduate student to attend the 2016 meeting of TIAFT, to be held in Brisbane, Australia.

“I wanted to cover conference registration, round trip airfare from New York City to Brisbane, their hotel and daily subsistence as long as they submit their research and get it accepted for oral presentation during the TIAFT scientific program,” said Lemos. “I expected that the organizers of the TIAFT conference would grant an oral research presentation to the John Jay grad student.”

Briana MillerThe lucky graduate student turned out to be Briana Miller, who on Sept. 1 presented her paper on “Stability of Synthetic Cathinones in Preserved Oral Fluid Specimens” at the TIAFT conference. Lemos was on hand to see his generosity at work, and served as a presenter himself, discussing his research on “Poisoning Outbreak in the Streets of San Francisco: A Case Series Involving Counterfeit Xanax.” He was also a co-presenter of research on “Workplace Drug Testing and General Toxicology.”

Lemos makes no secret of his appreciation for the role John Jay has played in his life and his professional success. “I was able to fly through my Ph.D. because I have much more hands-on experience than any other doctoral student,” he said, referring to his studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, where he earned a Ph.D. in forensic medicine and science in 1999. “I had exposure to many more faculty who were also forensic practitioners, and I saw them working on actual cases early on. It was an invaluable experience that helps me every day.”    

Internationally renowned for his work in forensic science, Lemos is a Clinical Professor of Laboratory Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine. Yet, as he noted recently, “John Jay College remains today the leader in graduate forensic science education worldwide because of its combination of a great location, substantial laboratories and world-famous and respected professors.”