Forensic science, bugs and all, fascinates ASU honors graduate Andrew Noblesse

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

You could say Andrew Noblesse had a buggy time at Arizona State University.

Insects figured prominently into his undergraduate experience at the university.

Noblesse overcame his lifelong fear of bugs and completed a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. He is graduating ASU next week with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

“At ASU, I learned that I do not hate insects as much as I thought I did. In my third year I took a forensic entomology course, during which I went on a class camping trip to collect insects,” said Noblesse, whose hometown is Tucson, Arizona.

“While I screamed a few times during the trip, I have become more comfortable around most insects, the exception being cockroaches. I have also been in the forensic entomology research lab, where I completed my honors thesis, and spent the last week and a half going out every day to check on a decomposing pig and collect insects off of it!” he said.

Noblesse’s honors thesis is titled "Blow Flies and the American Diet: Effects of Fat Content on Blow Fly (Diptera: Calliphoridae) Development." For his thesis, Noblesse conducted an experiment to see how varying fat levels (10%, 20%, and 27% fat) affect the development of two species of blow flies, Lucilia sericata and Phormia regina. Data will help improve time of colonization (TOC) estimations made by forensic entomologists engaged in casework.

When not in the lab or immersed in coursework, Noblesse was active in the Barrett Honors College community at ASU West campus.

He counts representing Barrett at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in November 2019 as a highlight of his undergraduate experience.

“It was so fun getting to travel and make friends not only with other Barrett students who I hadn't known prior, but honors students from around the nation as well. The culture in New Orleans is very rich and I am honored to have been selected to attend,” he said.

As Noblesse prepares to move forward as an ASU grad, we asked him to reflect on his experiences as a student. Here’s what he had to say:

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: Like many people, I watched some of the crime dramas that feature the forensic process, and found an interest in this unique realm of science. However, I learned very quickly that the field is not what is shown on TV, and I had my "aha" moment to continue in this field during my sophomore year, when I had my first forensics course and learned the true methods of the forensic scientist.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it was a place I could study forensics and not switch to a different science. It was also close enough to home so I could travel there if needed, but far enough to still maintain my independence.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Although I only had Dr. Sasha Billbe as an instructor for one honors elective course, she also was my supervisor over the last three years. One lesson she taught is how to advocate for myself effectively, which I will always value, as I sometimes struggle with being my own advocate. She has been an amazing supervisor, and among all the things she has taught me, self-advocacy will be the one I strive to act upon.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: The best piece of advice I'd give to those still in school would be to not give up. It's okay to switch your educational path, but don't give up on the journey because it will all be worth it in the end.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Prior to the (novel coronavirus) pandemic, my favorite spot was the Barrett Suite at West. I would spend nearly every day, Monday through Friday, in the suite with my friends playing games, doing homework, and occasionally napping. It also was fun to have conversations with Dr. Ramsey Eric Ramsey, associate dean of Barrett at the West campus, when he would step out of his office.

As the suite was not accessible for the safety of students, staff, and faculty during the pandemic, my favorite space became my research lab where I would spend many hours a week — sometimes late into the night — working on my thesis or my NCUIRE (New College Undergraduate Inquiry and Research Experiences) project, where I looked at more than 1,000 maggots under a microscope.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I plan on moving to the Phoenix metropolitan area, taking a gap year to work in a health care related position, and applying to medical school for the 2022 cycle.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I had $40 million to solve a problem, I would focus on LGBTQ+ related issues, especially fixing the disproportionate levels of homelessness amongst the community, which will in turn help reduce homelessness overall. Shelter is very much a basic human right, and should be regarded as such by more people, especially those in power.