It may be that Daniel Blessing is the only Fordham student who had to take a polygraph test to get an internship this summer.
A rising senior at Fordham College at Rose Hill, Blessing underwent to the two-hour lie-detector test after he was offered a prestigious FBI Honors Internship.
“[The polygraph] is not a whole lot of fun,” he said. “You get hooked up to electrodes on two fingers and a heart monitor, and you sit on a motion detector that measures if you move your feet. Probably the weirdest thing is the pneumatic tubes they attach to your chest to monitor your breathing.”
The exam was one of the final hurdles Blessing had to clear to enter the FBI program. Other requirements included submitting his transcripts, finishing an essay and sitting for an interview.
Even then, before he was granted access to the nation’s top law enforcement agency, Blessing’s friends, family and acquaintances also were interviewed. The federal questioners addressed everything from substance abuse to patriotism.
With all the pieces in place, he entered the program and has been conducting electronics analysis at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia for the past month.
Each student represents a $40,000 investment for the government, Blessing explained. For their part, the applicants were not told what would happen if they failed their screenings.
“I was assigned to the operational technology division, and as I found out, it’s not easy to find any information on the Internet about the operational units in the FBI,” he said.
Blessing said he first worked with the forensic audio video image analysis unit. But just as he was able to switch his Fordham major from business to physics, he transferred to the FBI’s cryptologic and electronic analysis unit.
“I work with devices that have been recovered in the field and are of interest to the military and intelligence communities. We do things like electronic data recovery and circuit analysis,” he said. “What I do is very exciting; it bears directly on saving American lives.”
Although the distance from his home in Pasadena, Md. to Quantico is only 76 miles, Blessing, a graduate of Loyola Blakefield High School, wasn’t always focused on law enforcement as a career.
“I wanted to do something meaningful and interesting,” he said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew these agencies need people and there’s a lot of wiggle room in terms of what you can do.”
Blessing chose Fordham in part because he received a presidential scholarship, but in his time here, he has especially come to appreciate the support of the physics faculty. Last summer, for instance, he assisted professor Kunal Das, Ph.D. in a research project.
“One of the nice things about the physics department is that we’re pretty small, so there’s a lot of room for individual attention,” he said. “As an upperclassman, you can [suggest]classes you want professors to offer, as opposed to just looking in a course catalogue.”