Texas Youths Investigate Forensics from Tomberlin Lab during Summer Program

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin teaches campers about bloodspatter patterns on wooden objects during an interactive demonstration. Photo by Rob Williams.

Texas high school and junior high students got their first taste of forensic science this summer as members of Dr. Jeff Tomberlin’s lab hosted the Youth Adventure Program in the Heep Center.

Held every summer, the program is designed to encourage career exploration in the fields of interest to students in the 6th through 12th grades. Students that were attending the Forensics portion ranged from the 9th through the 12th grades.

For five days, the first floor teaching lab in the Heep Center was transformed into a mini forensics laboratory as the students got the chance to experience forensics first hand and learn real-world techniques that forensic scientists use to solve cases.

During the week, students watched as members of the lab demonstrated how to measure bloodspatter patterns, lift fingerprints from different media, and collect evidence at crime scenes. The students also had the chance to use what they had learned during various hands-on demonstrations each day after the lecture.

bloodspatter demonstration

Students in the forensics course at the Youth Adventure Program measure bloodspatter patterns during an in-class exercise. Photo by Rob Williams

The final day’s activities included a mock investigation, where students were broken up into groups to investigate several crime scenes that were set up in the front of the room. Students had to comb through the evidence, record it, and then solve the case. The final product included a short presentation that was done in the afternoon session on how each team solved their case.

Tomberlin said the program is great in letting the students see what college life is about, as well as recruiting prospective students. “The program is an excellent mechanism through which Texas A&M can recruit future students.” he said.

“I love the program,” a participant said. “I am able to experience a lot of great things about forensics in a week. “

Tomberlin was glad to see the turnout from the students and the outstanding participation from his lab members. “I think it is great to have graduate and undergraduate students work with high school students,” he said. “I believe it gives them an excellent opportunity to convey their enthusiasm for forensics and to learn to be better teachers,” he said.

Ph. D. student and volunteer Meaghan Pimsler enjoyed teaching forensics to the students and thought the program was a great and fun way for them to learn science.

“I believe that outreach is vital to attracting the next generation of scientists,” she said.  “If I can make a difference just one person’s life in that week of camp, help them realize that science is glamorous and fun and exciting, then I think that I will have had a pretty successful week.”


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