TU student uses passion for science to help the community

By Kyle Hobstetter on April 17, 2022

Alexis Garloff ’22 works in two TU forensic science labs, started nonprofit for sexual assault victims 

Alexis Garloff '22 at Mercy Hospital
Alexis Garloff '22 started a nonprofit called Linens for the Lionhearted, which collects bed sheets for sexual assault and/or domestic violence victims. (Lauren Castellana/Towson University) 

Growing up, Alexis Garloff ’22 always wanted to help people.

That passion has followed her to Towson University, where she’s taken the opportunity to act on it.  

The Millsboro, Delaware, native is majoring in forensic chemistry, because she always had a passion for studying DNA and biology and wanted to help the community.

“I always wanted to have a purpose and make an impact,” Garloff says. “And within the last two years, I’ve had some amazing opportunities that let me dive into my passion.”

She is an undergraduate researcher for Kelly Elkins, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and the head of the TU Human Remains Identification Laboratory (THRIL).

Working closely with local law enforcement agencies, THRIL provides state-of-the-art DNA extraction, quantitation and analysis services for human body fluids and remains.

Meet Towson University’s DNA detectives

Through her work with Elkins, Garloff presented a research project, “A Comparison of Four DNA Extraction Methods to Extract Genomic DNA from Human Body Fluid and Fly Artifact Samples,” at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ annual conference in February.

She also worked as a lab assistant for Dana Kollman, a clinical associate professor in TU’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice. Garloff assisted and learned more about the process of defleshing and preserving human remains.

She is a member of the Forensic Science Student Organization, whose services are regularly requested by law enforcement agencies to search for human remains and associated evidence.

“It's crazy that we're getting these opportunities and this experience, because once you get into the forensics world, this is all they do,” Garloff says. “Every day is DNA extraction, DNA purification, DNA quantification. There is a standard operating procedure within forensic biology labs, and to get that experience here, before getting out into the real world, is unmatched.”

Alexis Garloff '22 in the THRIL Lab
Garloff works as an undergraduate researcher in the TU Human Remains Identification Laboratory (Alex Wright / Towson University) 

This past October, Garloff started a nonprofit called Linens for the Lionhearted.

Teaming up with Mercy Medical Center and their forensic nurse examiners, Garloff is collecting brand-new bed sheets for victims of sexual assault and/or domestic violence.

The idea came to Garloff after she read an article about a crime scene technician who realized these victims were being left with no sheets after they were taken as evidence.

Her research on the subject revealed Mercy provided rape testing kits to the police, so Garloff got in touch with Debra Holbrook, the director of forensic nursing, and the two set up a way for Garloff to donate the sheets safely.

“I was so impressed, first of all, from a student, to have that much insight to what a victim would need,” Holbrook says. “That blew me away. The fact that she had it so well planned. It wasn't just this idea, but she had the wherewithal to initiate it.

“She’s an impassioned, well-educated student. We’re not in the Towson general area, but she sought us out. She knew our volumes and the help we provide to the community. Working with her…it’s been quite impressive.”

Learn more and donate to Linens for the Lionhearted

Alexis Garloff at Mercy Medical Center
Garloff partnered with Mercy Medical Center to start Linens for the Lionhearted. (Lauren Castellana/Towson University) 

For Garloff, the idea of starting Linens for the Lionhearted goes back to just wanting to help people.

“[It] is very rewarding,” she says. “I wanted to do more community outreach, and I figured this was a good way to provide for the public and those victims.”

Garloff will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry. Starting this term, she joined the accelerated bachelor’s to graduate program and is already working on her master’s degree in forensic science.

TU Counseling Center 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month 

April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a national campaign to highlight sexual violence as a public health, human rights and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.

The Towson University Counseling Center is able to assist students who have experienced sexual violence. They also work to educate the university community about sexual violence and violence prevention.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you do not have to face the situation alone. Contact the Counseling Center at 410-704-2512 to speak with a counselor for assistance and support.