To this pathologist, a cadaver is more than a dead body. It’s a mystery to be solved.
When criminal investigation expert Tom Mauriello needs a top-rate forensic pathologist, he calls Priya Banerjee, MD.
“In an investigation, everybody has their own specialty,” he says. “Nobody talks to each other. Priya’s a medical examiner who, beyond knowing her business as a physician, understands the needs and expectations of the investigative process.”
A senior lecturer in the University of Maryland’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice for more than four decades, Mauriello first encountered Banerjee in the late 1990s, when she enrolled in his crime-lab course Introduction to Criminalistics. The focus was on death investigations. She was hooked.
“We touched on everything—crime scenes, fingerprints, guns. I thought, ‘This is really cool!’” his former student, now an adjunct assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Brown, says.
Before college, Banerjee knew she wanted to study biology but hadn’t decided on a career. She was intrigued by the emerging field of forensic DNA, an interest that had been sparked a few years earlier as she watched the televised verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial in her high school library.
Then, as an undergraduate at Maryland, she balked at the university’s requirement to fulfill core requirements outside the sciences. So instead of taking British poetry or American history, she chose an entry-level criminal justice class. Banerjee became so enamored of the discipline—especially the role science plays in investigations—that she went on to take Mauriello’s upper-level courses, rounding out her double major in molecular biology and genetics with a concentration in criminology and criminal justice. She and Mauriello stayed in touch over the years, and, since becoming board certified in forensic pathology in 2012, she has worked with him on numerous cases.