Student Receives High Honors for Undergrad Forensic Entomology Research

Jennifer Rhinesmith with her poster at the Research Experience for Undergraduates poster session in early August. Photo by Rob Williams.

The Department of Entomology and the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program congratulates senior Jennifer Rhinesmith on receiving top award for her research for a non-PhD student at a national forensic entomology meeting in July.

She received the Best Presentation for a Non-Doctoral student award during a special awards presentation at the North American Forensic Entomology Association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas on July 17-19.

The award was given to Rhinesmith for her presentation titled “Quorum Sensing by Escherichia coli Serves as an Interkingdom Signal with Lucilia sericata (Diptera:Calliphoridae)”.

Her presentation explored the concept of interkingdom signaling between E. coli bacteria and L. sericata flies via quorum sensing molecules. Her focus in forensics is refining and quantifying the precolonization intervals by exploring the interactions between the flies and the bacteria. Rhinesmith said that these interactions are essential in increasing the accuracy of determining the estimations of times of colonization and postmortem interval.

Rhinesmith’s research interests are in in the area of the interactions between insects and microbes. She worked with Dr. Tomberlin’s Forensic Laboratory for Investigative Entomological Sciences (F.L.I.E.S.) facility this summer with funding provided by a grant from the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research sponsored by the Texas A&M University Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies.

“It’s an honor and I’m glad that I could bring this to A&M ad specifically to the F.L.I.E.S. lab,” she said. “Dr. Tomberlin and Micah Flores are fantastic mentors and I would not have been successful in receiving this award were it not for them.”

Rhinesmith found out about NAFEA through Tomberlin after he encouraged her to join other members and colleagues at the conference. “I was talking with Dr. Tomberlin about opportunities to interact more with the forensic community and he encouraged me to submit an abstract and attend NAFEA with the lab,” she said. “It was a little late in the game, but we were able to pull everything together and conduct our analyses in time for the meeting.”

Rhinesmith is a double degree student, majoring in both English and Entomology, with plans to attend graduate school to explore decomposition ecology. In the long term, she wants to receive a professorship and to become a board certified forensic entomologist by the American Board of Forensic Entomology.

“I am so proud of Jennie! She did an outstanding job,” professor Dr. Jeff Tomberlin said.

 

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