Tomberlin Named AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin, right, with Dr. Craig Nessler, Director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Photo by Michael Kellett.

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin, right, with Dr. Craig Nessler, Director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Photo by Michael Kellett.

Congratulations to Associate Professor Dr. Jeff Tomberlin as he was named a Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow during the Texas A&M AgriLife Conference on January 9 at the Memorial Student Center.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow is  an honorific title he will keep throughout his tenure at Texas A&M.  This was awarded for his outstanding research in the field of forensic entomology.

Tomberlin is an Associate Professor with the Department and is Director of the Forensic & Investigative Sciences Program and principal investigator of the Forensic Laboratory for Investigative Entomological Sciences (F.L.I.E.S.) Facility (forensicentomology.tamu.edu) in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University.

Tomberlin has attracted more than $2.2 million in the past five years and the results of his studies are widely published and cited worldwide. He is also active in various U.S. forensic science associations and has served as American Board of Forensic Entomology president.

“I am so honored to receive such a recognition from Texas AgriLife Research,” Tomberlin said. “Such an award only inspires me to continue to pushing forward with my research for the benefit of humanity.”

Brundage Receives Dean’s Award For Early Career Teaching

adrienne-brundage-for-wordpressAssistant Lecturer Dr. Adrienne Brundage’s teaching methods have earned her one of the highest awards given by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2016.

Brundage received the Dean’s Award for Early Career Teaching during a special awards ceremony in October at the AgriLife Center by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Since fall 2013, Brundage has been teaching in the Department as a full time lecturer. She currently teaches the Veterinary Entomology (ENTO 208), Medical Entomology (ENTO 423), undergraduate seminar, and Intro to Forensic Sciences (FIVS 205), teaching several hundred students each semester.

Brundage’s philosophy is simple: make the subject matter engaging, interesting, and impactful for her students.

“She is an exceptionally gifted teacher,” Ragsdale said. “She cuts through the extraneous information, and presents new and complex knowledge to students in such a way that it not only sticks, but impacts their lives. She does this through innovative and exciting teaching methods, coupled with an attentive, caring, and enthusiastic demeanor. Adrienne holds her students to a very high standard, and is confident that when they leave the university they will understand and expand their chosen field into new and unexplored areas.”

Brundage is also very active in several outreach programs, including teaching high school students during the Youth Outreach Program, various children’s groups and schools in the Brazos Valley in both entomology and forensics.

Most recently, Brundage was asked by the Texas State Anthropological Facility to train college students and police officers on using insects in forensic science. In addition to outreach, she also advises the First Responders Training Unit, the Order of Aggie Illusionists, and the Aggie Forensic Sciences Organization.

“Dr. Brundage embodies the spirit of what a junior professor at a land grant university should be – an exceptionally accomplished teacher who is making an impact in student’s lives and in her science,” Ragsdale said.

Parchman Named CSPD Rookie of Year

Kortney Parchman with the Rookie of the Year Award from CSPD. Photo by Jon Carpenter.

Kortney Parchman with the Rookie of the Year Award from CSPD. Photo by Jon Carpenter.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas–Congratulations to former student Kortney Parchman as she received the College Station Police Department’s Rookie of The Year for 2015 at a recent awards banquet earlier this year.

Parchman graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Forensic and Investigative Sciences with a Science Emphasis in fall of 2012. She started with the College Station Police Department in 2013 and currently works as a night shift patrol officer.

She said that she was nominated by her peers for her hard work and dedication to the Department. She was very excited and proud to have received the award.

“I was extremely honored to receive this award and it meant a lot to me that my coworkers and supervisor took the time to write nominations on my behalf,” Parchman said.

Parchman said she enjoyed working for CSPD and loves the fact that she is appreciated by her supervisors and her peers.

“This job is extremely rewarding and it was very nice to have a night to gather with coworkers and reflect on the jobs well done over the past year, especially in today’s climate in regards to police officers,” she said. “We are fortunate in College Station to have an extremely supportive community, which is truly amazing.”

Parchman is grateful for her degree and said it has been very helpful in understanding her work.

“My FIVS degree has been extremely beneficial with my career in law enforcement because it gives me a greater understanding of the bigger picture when responding to larger scenes,” Parchman said.

She loved the fact that what she has learned in her forensics courses, as well as being involved in the Forensic Science Academy’s minimesters, has helped her improve her skills on the job immensely.

“I believe I have excelled in my career due to the knowledgebase obtained in the FIVS program and through their partnership with TEEX and the Forensic Science Academy,” she said. “I use the skills acquired in the Latent Print Processing Course and Crime Scene Investigation on a daily basis.”

Ten Students Receive Forensic Technician Certifications from TEEX

Front picture

Ten FIVS students received their Forensic Technician certificates after the Latent Print Processing course in May. Back row: Emily Parsoneault, Kevin Taylor, Amy Cooper, Journey Ewell, Tanner Truelove, and Zayra Ramos. Front row: Jasmin Arevalo, Selena Portillo, Alex Williams and Casey Hearn. Photo by Rob Williams

IMG_1036

Jasmin Arevalo, left, and Zayra Ramos examining fingerprints on a light bulb during an activity on latent print processing. Photo by Rob Williams

BRYAN, Texas—Ten Forensic and Investigative Sciences students started their summers off right after they received their Forensic Technician certificates from the Texas Engineering Extension Service on Friday, May 20.

FIVS students Kevin Taylor, Emily Parsenault, Tanner Truelove, Amy Cooper, Zayra Ramos, Journey Ewell, Jasmin Arevalo, Selena Portillo, Alex Williams and Casey

Tanner Truelove and Casey Hearn checking a photo of a fingerprint. Photo by Rob Williams

Tanner Truelove and Casey Hearn checking a photo of a fingerprint. Photo by Rob Williams

Hearn received their certificates after completing the Latent

Print Processing course held at Riverside Campus during the May minimester on May 16-20.

According to TEEX’s website, the Forensic Technician certificate is designed to give students that have completed the program a recognized credential that can be added to help in the advancement of their careers.

To qualify for the Forensic Technician certificate, students must complete two intensive week-long training sessions in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Processing. Once the students pass the exams after each course, they receive a certificate and are awarded four credit hours for the courses.

Journey Ewell capturing a fingerprint with a camera

Journey Ewell capturing a fingerprint that was lifted from tape during an activity.

During the week-long course, students learned how to work with various techniques for processing fingerprints at crime scenes. Some of the techniques learned were pulling prints from substrates and other surfaces, processing prints with both chemical and non-chemical techniques, and proper photography of prints for correct evidence collection.

Students learned different basic techniques for processing latent fingerprints and enhancing visible prints from crime scenes. They also received instruction in taking and processing prints from physical evidence collected from the scene.

Senior Alex Williams was very impressed with the class and said the hands-on learning was the best part of the course.

“I loved the class and it was a lot more hands-on,” she said. “It was a great experience and I learned a lot of useful techniques.”

Williams also said her favorite technique was using the Gentian violet powder dye technique.

“It was great and I got some of the best prints,” Williams said.

IMG_1031

Alex Williams taking photos of a fingerprint that was processed on a piece of plastic. Photo by Rob Williams.

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The partnership between the academic Forensic and Investigative Sciences program within the Department of Entomology and the vocational training provided by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension’s Texas Forensic Science Academy is an example of a multi-agency partnership putting students first. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy continues to strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

 

Forensics Students Among Record Number of Graduates

IMG_20160513_083709088

Forensic and Investigative Sciences graduates. Photo by Rebecca Hapes

Seventeen Forensic and Investigative Sciences students celebrated another milestone in their lives as they joined 9,000 other Aggies during spring commencement on Friday, May 13.

The students joined thousands of others from the College of Agriculture and and the College of Geosciences expected to walk the Reed Arena stage.

Colton Sweetser and Adrianna Tirloni also received honors as they were recognized during the LAUNCH recognition ceremony held at the Bethancourt Ballroom in the Memorial Student Center on Thursday, May 12.

Sweetser and Tirloni were Undergraduate Research Scholars and worked in Dr. Jeffery Tomberlin’s lab. Sweetser was recognized for completing his senior thesis titled Priority effects of Chrysomya rufifacies and Hermetia illucens – part I Chrysomya rufificies while Tirloni’s was titled Priority effects of Chrysomya rufifacies and Hermetia illucens – part II Hermetia illucens. Both are Forensic and Investigative Sciences majors.

“We are very proud of this group,” Entomology Department Head Dr. David Ragsdale said.

Congratulations to the following that are expected to graduate and we wish you good luck in your futures!

Andrew Archer Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Jared Bailey Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Travis Farris Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Alexandra Gordy Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Emily Grimshaw Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Guerrero, Aaron Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Morgan Johnson Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Henry Junkert Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Cady Mello Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Domingo Monjaras Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Stephanie Stratta Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Taylor Splawn Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Colton Sweetser Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Adrianna Tirloni Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Emily Vincent Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Whitney West Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis

 

Students Recognized at Annual Departmental Banquet

Brandon Hoyer, center, receiving the Dr. Perry L. Adkisson Scholarship.
Brandon Hoyer, center, receiving the Dr. Perry L. Adkisson Scholarship.

Brandon Hoyer, center, receiving the Dr. Perry L. Adkisson Scholarship. Pictured with Hoyer is Dr. Bill McCutchen, left, Hoyer, Dr. Pete Teel, and Dr. David Reed. Photo by Rob Williams.

Congratulations to all of our Forensic and Investigative Sciences students that were recognized at the 20th Annual Undergraduate Entomology Student Banquet on Friday, April 8.

Students and their families convened at the Thomas G. Hildebrand Equine Complex where they were treated to a barbecue dinner and desserts as members of the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences and the Undergraduate Entomology Student Organization led the program.

After the welcome, UESO member Shelby Kilpatrick reported the highlights of the year’s activities for the organization while Stephanie Stratta reported highlights from AFIS and Dr. David Reed provided the keynote address.

  • Brandon Hoyer – Perry L. Adkisson Scholarship
  • Mya Gates – Department of Entomology Scholarship
  • Riley McBroom – Fowden G. and Katherine G. Maxwell Scholarship
  • Renee Chu – Paul Truman Riherd Memorial Scholarship
  • Zayra Ramos – Dial and Eva Martin Memorial Scholarship
  • Emily Parsoneault – Dr. Micky Eubanks Outstanding Faculty Scholarship
  • Tanner Truelove-Honorah A. Dore Scholarship
Aaron Tarone, left, received Professor of the Year. Pictured with Tarone is Melissa Espinoza. Photo by Rob Williams

Aaron Tarone, left, received Professor of the Year. Pictured with Tarone is Melissa Espinoza. Photo by Rob Williams

The Department also announced the 2016-2017 cohorts of the Department of Entomology Scholars Society, which is an organization developed to help current students expand their leadership and outreach skills through the enhancement of departmental functions.

These scholars serve as liaisons between faculty, staff and prospective students. Throughout the year, scholars represent the Department and its program by serving as hosts to prospective students, parents and other campus visitors. Forensics students selected as this year’s cohorts are:

  • Katherina Kang
  • Amy Cooper
  • Alexandra Williams

Dr Aaron Tarone received the Department of Entomology’s Professor of the Year Award while Jennifer Pecina received AFIS’ Most Hardworking and Dedicated Member of the Year Award while Ashleigh Faris was announced as the Most Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year in Forensics.

The officers for the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization were also announced at the end of the banquet. This year’s officers are:

  • Katherina Kang – President
  • Ashley Yzaguirre – Vice President
  • Adriana Peterson –Treasurer
  • Jonathan Chang –Secretary
  • Tammy Star – Activities Coordinator
  • Mya Gates – Historian

Forensics Students Participate In The Big Event

Melissa Espinoza cleaning windowsill
DSC_0162

Members of the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization met to clean a home in College Station for their project during The Big Event. Pictured are: Alex Williams, Tanner Truelove, Tammy Starr, Stephanie Stratta, Whitney West, Jacob Gormitz, Adriana Peterson, and Melissa Espinoza. Photo by Melissa Espinoza

COLLEGE STATION, Texas–Eight members of the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization spent the day Saturday helping a local family for The Big Event on Saturday, April 2.

The group joined more than 21,000 Aggies that were sent out in the Bryan/College Station and surrounding areas during the university’s largest area wide day of service in the community held annually.

Stephanie Stratta cleaning the kitchen. Photo by Melissa Espinoza.

Stephanie Stratta cleaning the kitchen. Photo by Melissa Espinoza.

The team worked together to tackle various chores around the home, including pulling weeds and clearing flowerbeds to raking leaves outside. Another group then took care of cleaning baseboards, windows and doors in the home.

“I always loved doing the Big Event,” said AFIS treasurer Stephanie Stratta. “It really is a great way to serve and give back to the community. The satisfaction of helping others really is my favorite part.”

AFIS member Alex Williams loved the fact that she also was giving back to the community and a great way for the organization to do something together.

“I love the Big Event and giving back to the community,” Williams said. “This really is a great event and a fun day to be with friends and working to serve the community.”

Melissa Espinoza cleaning the living room windows

Melissa Espinoza cleaning the living room windows. Photo by Rob Williams

This was freshman AFIS member Jacob Gormitz’s first Big Event and he said that he was very excited about participating and giving back to the community.

“This is definitely a great opportunity to help and give back to the community,” he said.

This also was Forensic and Investigative Sciences senior Adriana Peterson’s first time being at the event. She said that it’s a great way to serve the community and was very excited to be a part of it.

“It’s so great that we have so many people going out into the whole city to do volunteer work,” she said. “I have never seen anything like this. It’s really great!”

Alex Williams cleaning the flowerbeds.

Alex Williams cleaning the flowerbeds. Photo by Rob Williams.

Homeowner Will Fusselman was grateful for the students coming out to help.

“I think it’s great that they came out today and we appreciate them taking the time out on a Saturday to help us out,” homeowner Will Fusselman said.  “It is great that they are working together outside to serve the community in this great way.”

Fusselman enjoyed meeting all the different groups that have been invited during the three years he has participated in the event.

“It’s always fun to meet new groups,” he said.

Students Receive Forensic Technician Certificates During CSI Course

Stephanie Stratta, left, and Whitney West discussing notes during the mock crime scene exercise.

Stephanie Stratta, left, and Whitney West discussing notes during the mock crime scene exercise. Photo by Rob Williams

For seniors Whitney West and Stephanie Stratta, the dream of becoming certified forensic technicians just became reality this January as they received they became the first Forensic Technician certificate recipients of 2016.

West and Stratta, both senior Forensic and Investigative Science majors, just recently completed the Crime Scene Investigation course with 16 other students that was held at Riverside Campus during the week of January 11-16. The courses help Texas A&M students in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program receive hands-on learning experience in crime scene investigation and other forensic techniques that are used in real life.

IMG_0700

Forensics students Stephanie Stratta, left, Whitney West, and Emily Grimshaw working together at the mock crime scene. Photo by Rob Williams.

Some of the techniques learned included  taking proper field notes, evidence protection and preservation. The students also learned how to sketch a crime scene and techniques on how to properly take photographs at crime scenes.

IMG_0647

Emily Parsoneault working on a footprint cast during a hands-on demonstration

The hands-on activities prepared students for a mock crime scene that was set up inside Texas A&M Engineering Extension’s live-fire shoothouse located behind the firing range. Students received the chance to test their skills out during the exercise, where they were given a chance to comb through evidence around the area to solve a mock crime.

Stratta enjoyed the class and said she was ready for the mock crime scene exercise. She said her favorite parts of the class were the hands-on activities.

“It has been a fun class and I learned a lot,” she said. “I’m excited to see how much I learned by Friday.”

West said the best part of the CSI course was that everything was interactive and helped her learn more about how crime scene investigators work in the field.

“The best part of about the CSI class was getting hands-on experience in the field,” she said. “I’m a hands-on learner and having this class has helped me gain an understanding of what life as an investigator is like.”

West plans to attend graduate school in the future, where she will pursue a master’s degree in forensic Science.

“I’m happy to receive my certification,” she said. “It has been a rewarding experience.”

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The partnership between the academic Forensic and Investigative Sciences program within the Department of Entomology and the vocational training provided by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s Texas Forensic Science Academy is an example of a multi-agency partnership putting students first. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy continues to strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

Tomberlin Named Director of FIVS Program

Jeff Tomberlin LargerCOLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Department of Entomology’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program is celebrating the New Year by introducing Dr. Jeffery Tomberlin as the program’s new director.

Tomberlin was named director in January and will be serving as the conduit between the program and the Department of Entomology. He also will serve as the liaison for the Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission, which is the commission that maintains and enhances the quality of forensic science education through formal evaluation and recognition of college-level academic programs.

Tomberlin is hoping to maintain the high level of production that was made during the time the program started in 2007 and to work closely with the Department and students in enhancing the program.

“I hope to meet the same level of production as Dr. Heinz when he was director,” Tomberlin said. “I look forward to engaging the students and working with them to enhance our program so that it meets their needs with regards to their education and future careers.”

He said that he is also looking forward to working with the Department Head, as well as others, on continuing to improve the program for the future.

“I also am excited to partner with Dr. Ragsdale as department head, and with college and university leaders, on the continued maturation of our program to meet 21st century needs within the forensic sciences community,” he said. “I really hope to continue to elevate our program both nationally and internationally.”

Local Accident Reconstructionist Teaches Forensics Students About Accident Reconstruction Basics

Brent Munyon, forensic accident reconstructionist for A&M Forensics and Engineering, Inc. showing students from Dr. Adrienne Brundage's Intro to Forensics (FIVS 205) class how to correctly diagram an accident scene. Photo by Rob Williams.

Brent Munyon, forensic accident reconstructionist for A&M Forensics and Engineering, Inc. showing students from Dr. Adrienne Brundage’s Intro to Forensics (FIVS 205) class how to correctly diagram an accident scene. Photo by Rob Williams.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—Students in Dr. Adrienne Brundage’s FIVS 205 class got a crash course in how reconstructionists re-create and study automobile accidents in November as a local accident reconstructionist guest lectured in November.

Brent Munyon, a local accident reconstructionist from A&M Forensics and Engineering, Inc., taught some of his techniques and talked to the students about his career.

Some of the techniques he taught were measuring correctly, proper evidence collection, sketching and measuring accident scenes, and photography techniques.

Students also got the chance to see several of the tools he used and to work a mock accident scene that was set up in the Heep Center parking lot.

Brundage had met Munyon several years ago after searching for guest speakers to come and speak during her class. She said she thought Munyon would be a perfect fit for the students.

Brent Munyon demonstrating how to walk through an accident scene during a mock scene set up outside the Heep Center during Dr. Brundage's FIVS 205 class. Photo by Rob Williams

Brent Munyon demonstrating how to walk through an accident scene during a mock scene set up outside the Heep Center during Dr. Brundage’s FIVS 205 class. Photo by Rob Williams

“I am very excited about Brent guest lecturing. He had an idea to expand his lectures and really give the students some good training in what it means to be an accident reconstructionist,” Brundage said. “He took several days out of his busy schedule to plan and work with the students, and he showed them how important physics is to the forensic sciences. I’m really glad about this, since most of the students have to take physics, and often don’t see the practical application until much later in their schooling.”

She thought that his style of teaching was interesting and the students were well-engaged during the time he taught.

“He has been simply fantastic about coming in and speaking whenever I need him to,” she said.

Congratulations Fall 2015 Graduates

KellyThe Forensic and Investigative Sciences program would like to congratulate Kelly Lynn Marshall as she joined more than 5,000 other Aggies during commencement this Friday, December 18.

Marshall was among the students graduating from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences during the 9am ceremony at Reed Arena.

Kelly Lynn  Marshall Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis, Psychology minor

Tomberlin’s Research Featured in Microbiologist Magazine

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin counting captured flies. Photo by Chong Chin Heo.

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin counting captured flies. Photo by Chong Chin Heo.

The high quality of Associate Professor Dr. Jeffery Tomberlin’s work in finding out how to best determine the time of death of animals by using microbiological processes of fly attraction has helped him to be featured in the September 2015 issue of Microbiologist magazine.

The magazine is a publication of the professional organization called Society for Applied Microbiology and featured several articles on research in the microbiological field. The September issue featured the Tomberlin Lab and showed how he and his lab used microbiological processes in breaking down tissues to determine the time of death of an organism.

When an animal dies, he said that the microbes begin in the carcass begin to break down tissues, which produces gases and begins bloating the body over time. Flies used these odors to locate the remains and then lay their eggs or larvae in the moist cavities, such as the nose, mouth, or eyes. The offspring of these flies then feed on the soft tissues.

Different species of flies vary in their diet, and some flies, such as the black soldier fly are omnivorous, which means that they are able to eat a wide variety of foods. He then said that once the maggots eat their share, other insects including beetles, and scavenging animals would eat what is left of the animal.

Forensic entomologists, such as Tomberlin, study flies and maggots to determine what factors influence when insects start colonizing human or animal remains. He said that a better understanding of the colonization times would allow forensic scientists to help better predict the actual time of death of the person in question.

Tomberlin said that the unknown factor is what attracts certain insects to a decomposing body. He said researchers suspect that odors that are released by microbes as they break down certain substances may be a major factor.

“We are interested in determining how microbes communicate with one another and how these messages influence insect behavior- specifically with regards to insects attract to, and colonizing, human remains, Tomberlin said. “A better understanding of these interactions could result in precise methods for determining not only when someone is colonized by insects (a minimum time of death) but when they actually die.”

Tomberlin was excited to see his research featured in this article and said it was a great way to showcase the quality of research that his lab has been working on.

“I am thrilled to have a featured article published in The Microbiologist as it reaches microbiologists around the world,” he said. “Such articles together serve as the stage that we get to discuss the implications of microbiology and interkingdom communication as they relate to forensic research.”

The full article can be read at: http://issuu.com/societyforappliedmicrobiology/docs/microbiologistseptemberweb

FLIES Lab Outreach Program Hosts Interactive Forensics Camp

IMG_0015

Ph.D. student Lue Cuttiford helping a participant with a microscope. Photo by Rob Williams

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The Heep Center Room 108 was transformed into a lab of forensic science as several youths from the Youth Adventure Camp descended for the Investigative Forensics week during late July.

The group consisted of several ninth through twelfth graders from schools across the area that interested in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Throughout the week, the students were shown various techniques forensic scientists used and showed in a fun and interactive way how these scientists use science to solve cases.

This is senior lecturer Dr. Adrienne Brundage’s third year that she and Dr. Jeffery Tomberlin’s lab (FLIES Lab) members have taught the youths. Brundage said that this year’s camp was different in that it was more interactive and focused upon a case. She said that each activity will build upon itself to help them to solve a mock crime scene on the final day.

IMG_9957

Dr. Adrienne Brundage teaching participants the basics on searching a crime scene. Photo by Rob Williams

Some of the newer activities this year included having the students conduct a mock crime scene search where they locate different pieces of evidence and extracting substances. In addition, the students got to learn how to lift latent fingerprints, measure bloodspatter patterns, and DNA extraction methods.

“We really wanted to do case-focused activities,” she said. “Each activity they do adds to their toolkit for the final activity.”

The students also had the chance to use the same tools that forensic scientists use, including fingerprint dusting and lifting kits and microscopes.

During the final day, students were divided into teams to help solve a mock crime scene that includes all the activities they learned throughout the week.

Brundage enjoyed working with the students and said that it was a great opportunity for them to learn firsthand how forensic scientists solve crimes and science, as well as gives them a preview of a college classroom setting.

“This is really a great program,” Brundage said. “It really gives the students a chance to experience what it would be like to take a college level course. It’s so exciting and fun and I get to work with lots of budding forensic scientists. They are so determined and excited about learning!”

Students Receive Forensic Technician Certification

IMG_3967

The May Forensic Technician certificate recipients. From left to right are: Emily Grimshaw, Emily Vincent, Cady Mello, Carmen Tellez, Alex Gordy, and Henry Junkert. Photo by Rob Williams.

IMG_3862

Carmen Tellez inspecting an item for latent fingerprints. Photo by Rob Williams.

BRYAN, Texas–Six students that were involved in this May’s Texas Engineering Extension Service’s Texas Forensic Science Academy will have something to take home with them during the summer and in their future careers.

Alexandra Gordy, Emily Grimshaw, Emily Vincent, Emily Grimshaw, Henry Junkert, Cady Mello, and Carmen Tellez were awarded the Forensic Technician certificates at the end of the Latent Print Processing course held during the week of May 18-24.

These students had to complete two weeklong intensive courses in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Processing courses to qualify for the certification. Once they pass the courses, then they receive a certificate and four credit hours for the courses.

During the Latent Print Processing course, the students learned various techniques in collecting and processing fingerprints from various surfaces. Some of the topics learned during the course included processing using chemicals, dyes and non-powder processes, powder processing, and processing blood prints.

Emily Vincent, left, and Emily Grimshaw looking for latent fingerprints after lifting them from tape. Photo by Rob Williams

Emily Vincent, left, and Emily Grimshaw looking for latent fingerprints after lifting them from tape. Photo by Rob Williams.

The students also learned how to properly document and photograph prints once they are collected.

Tellez enjoyed the fact that both courses were interactive and would definitely help her on her future as she goes to law school.

“I really liked that there was a lot of hands-on activities,” she said. “I learn best when there are a lot of hands on activities than just lectures.”

Tellez said that her favorite activity during the course was processing the prints with fluorescent dyes and powders.

IMG_3836

Emily Vincent working an activity during the Latent Print Processing class. Photo by Rob Williams.

“I loved working with all the different colors,” she said.

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The partnership between the academic Forensic and Investigative Sciences program within the Department of Entomology and the vocational training provided by the TEEX Texas Forensic Science Academy is an example of a multi-agency partnership putting students first. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy continues to strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

Forensics Students Were Among Record Spring 2015 Graduating Class

FIVS graduates-insidepage

Nineteen Forensic and Investigative Sciences students celebrated their hard work in their academic career as they joined more than 8,700 other Aggies that were expected to walk the stage during spring commencement exercises at Reed Arena on Friday, May 15.

Students and their families shared memories with faculty members and were treated to a special pre-graduation breakfast with donuts and coffee in the fourth floor atrium.

Congratulations and good luck on your future!!

Michael James Banfield Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Kyle Beckman Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Juliane Bounds Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Larry Ross Buntyn Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Charlotte Wyn Dearman Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Zachary Allen Dell Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Lauren Elizabeth Frankino Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Kelsey Nicole Garner Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis
Isabell Gallegos Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Andrew Greenwood Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Charnae’ M Kearney Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Ashley Nicole Maynard Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Kelsey Nicole Muniz Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Peter Minh Nguyen Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Caitlin Nicole Otto Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Angela Saree Ruffino Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Carmen Guadalupe Tellez Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Jaeden Shae Thomas Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis
Oswaldo Tejeda Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Law Emphasis

 

Forensics Student Wants to Change the World, One Crime Scene at a Time

By Tara Hale, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

A Q&A with Kelsey Muniz

Kelsey Muniz

Kelsey Muniz. Photo by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Major: Forensic and Investigative Sciences

Hometown: Giddings, TX

Graduation: May 2015

Favorite color: Pink

On her time in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences…

How did you discover your major?

My aunt has worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Missing Persons Unit for many years and I was always interested in the many stories she would tell regarding the efforts to find missing victims. Real-life crime scene shows, such as Forensic Files, also helped increase this interest. I also love the mystery and puzzle-solving involved in this field, where each case is something unique and different. So when I was looking for a field to go into, forensic science just seemed like an awesome career to pursue. Not everyone gets to say they have a job like what you see on T.V.

What is your favorite thing about being in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences?

One of my favorite things about being in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is the emphasis it places on helping others and changing the world. This mindset is heavily emphasized within my major by stressing the importance of correctly applying science in order to gain justice for victims of crimes. Being able to help others who are less fortunate than I or who are not able to help themselves is a driving force for why I volunteer in my community as well as why I chose to major in forensic science. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University sets the perfect example of how education can be used to improve the world.

On her future plans…

What is your dream job?

In forensics, my dream job would be to work as a latent print examiner or a crime scene investigator. Through my internship experience with Austin Police Department’s Forensic Science Division as well as specialty courses I have taken during my college education, I have learned that my true passion lies within investigating crime scenes as well as examining fingerprints. Ever since I was younger, I always dreamed of being like CSI’s I would see on T.V., and now I am able to have that opportunity which is truly exciting.

On her Aggie experiences…

What is your favorite Aggie tradition?

The Aggie ring is definitely my favorite Aggie tradition. As an Aggie, that little piece of gold is so much more than just a class ring. It is a symbol of all the hard work and determination each student gives in order to earn it. Through this ring, the entire Aggie family is able to be connected. This tradition was also the way in which I was recently proposed to. My now fiancé surprised me on Ring Day by not only receiving his Aggie Ring, but by placing an engagement ring inside the box as well.

If you could give your freshman-self advice, what would it be?

My advice would be to not underestimate your ability to succeed. Throughout my freshman year, which was by far the most difficult, I often doubted my ability to make it through college. This was especially the case after I took my very first college exam and made a 62. (In high school, I was a straight A student in the top 10% of my class, so this was a major deal for me!) So my advice to my freshman-self would be that you are capable of more than you give yourself credit for, so do not let one test or bad grade define who you are.

Former Student Wins Champion in Court Competition at UT School of Law

Hannah (Beckerdite) Roblyer, left, with second place winner Mihret Getabicha. Submitted photo.

Hannah (Beckerdite) Roblyer, left, with second place winner Mihret Getabicha. Submitted photo.

AUSTIN, Texas–Congratulations to Hannah (Beckerdite) Roblyer ’13 on becoming the champion during the latest court competition that was held recently at the University of Texas School of Law this spring.

Roblyer was the champion sole winner and was one of two finalists that came from the top 64 first-year law students selected for the Thad T. Hutcheson Moot Court Competition.

The event is a competition held for outstanding first-year advocates at the University of Texas School of Law. Each student contestant was selected based on the strength of his or her final briefs and oral arguments in their Legal Research and Writing classes. The contestants then competed in single-elimination rounds with three-judge panels which were comprised of outstanding legal practitioners from the Austin area.

The final round was presided over by five prestigious UT Law graduates – this year, Professor Scott McCown, Judge Patricia Alvarez, Judge Lee Yeakel, Solicitor General Scott Keller, and Judge Cindy Bourland, she said.

In moot court rounds, the advocates switch sides from the position they last argued. The rounds consist of advocacy for whichever client the competitor represents. During the advocacy, each competitor is consistently interrupted by judges asking complex legal questions/challenges or proposing hypothetical situations, the legal ramifications of which the competitors must quickly analyze and predict.

Roblyer said receiving the news that she had won the competition was a surprise to her.

“As a result, being in the final round was thrilling,” she said. “When the judge announced my name I was stunned and ecstatic.”

All of competitors in the tournament were UT Law students; Roblyer’s opponent in the final round earned her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth and is pursuing a specialization in Human Rights Law.

“The best part of competing was getting to engage in complex issue analysis with outstanding legal minds,” she said.  “I am most comfortable at the podium when I feel like I’m having a conversation with the judges and just seeking to help alleviate any concerns they have about why my client should prevail.”

She also said that waiting in between rounds was the most nerve racking.

“The worst part of competing is the hour before the round starts – my nerves run pretty high until I’m physically at the podium,” she said. “Then when I’m up there, hashing through the arguments, I’m much more comfortable.”

Roblyer graduated from A&M in December of 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Forensic and Investigative Sciences in the Science track. She is currently working on her Juris Doctor (JD) degree at the University of Texas School of Law.

Forensics Students Receive COALS Senior Merit Awards

Kelsey Muniz award recipient
17040303120_13084a957f_z

Caitlin Otto, center, standing with Dr. Bill Dugas, left, and Dr. Mark Hussey. Photo by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—Seniors Caitlin Otto’s and Kelsey Muniz’s hard work and dedication during their college careers were recognized during Parents’ Weekend as they received the 2015 Senior Merit Awards during the Spring Awards Convocation on Saturday, April 18th.

Otto, a native of Houston, Texas, is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Forensic and Investigative Sciences major with the Science Emphasis Track. During her career at A&M, she was a member of the Leggett Hall Council and served as its President from 2013-2014, as well as its Treasurer and Vice President in 2012-2013.

Otto has been a member of the the Residence Hall Association and the Presidents Council from 2013-2014. She has also been involved with Relay for Life and has served both as a participant and as a Team Co-Leader for three years.

Otto also has been involved with Bryan Police Department’s Junior/Spanish Citizens Police Academy. As an assistant in this program, she helped set up class activities, presentations, mock crime scenes and taught participants how to dust for fingerprints. Additionally, during the summer of 2014, Otto interned at the Bryan Police Department as a student intern helping various units in the department.

Kelsey Muniz award recipient

Kelsey Muniz, center, standing with Dr. Bill Dugas ,left, and Dr. Mark Hussey. Photo by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

A native of Giddings, Texas, Muniz is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Forensic and Investigative Sciences major with the Law Emphasis Track. She is currently a member of the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization. As a member, she has helped with the organization’s annual bake sale fundraiser and volunteered with The Big Event in 2011. She also has been involved in several activities through her undergraduate experience, including volunteering for the Lee County Food Pantry and various functions for St. Paul Lutheran Church.

In summer of 2014, she interned with the Austin Police Department as a Crime Scene Unit Intern, where she observed and assisted crime scene technicians with processing non-evidentiary items in the lab using Cyanoacrylate fuming, black powder and dye stains.

Muniz has received numerous awards, including being named to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Dean’s Honor Roll in 2014, being a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society, and was inducted into the Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society in 2013. She was also named to the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society in 2012.

Based on leadership, scholarship and service at the department, college and university level, the Senior Merit Award is the highest award given to undergraduates by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. To be eligible for the award, students must be projected to graduate during the current calendar year.

Kelsey Garner Receives Forensic Technician Certification

IMG_2511

Kelsey Garner, left, with Cele Rossi. Photo by Rob Williams

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program would like to congratulate senior Kelsey Garner on recently receiving her Forensic Technician during the spring minimester of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s Forensic Science Academy at Riverside Campus.

Garner was awarded with the certificate at the end of the academy’s Crime Scene Investigation course. Held every January, the course prepares students on how to conduct proper and professional crime scene investigations using the latest techniques in the field today.

Garner was among the 10 participants that were enrolled in the weeklong course held during the week of January 12-15. Other participants were: Emily Grimshaw, Angela Ruffino, Jaeden Thomas, Isabell Gallegos, Cady Mello, Alexandra Gordy, Emily Vincent, Lloyd Sutherland, Garner, and Henry Junkert.

IMG_2502

Participants from the spring minimester course. from left – right are: Emily Grimshaw, Alexandra Gordy, Kelsey Garner, Henry Junkert, Angela Ruffino, instructor Cele Rossi, Isabell Gallegos, Emily Vincent, Cady Mello, Jaeden Thomas, and Lloyd Sutherland. Photo by Rob Williams

To qualify for the Forensic Technician certificate, students must complete two intensive weeklong training sessions in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Processing. Once the students pass the exams after each course, they receive a certificate and are awarded four credit hours for the courses.

The students learned real-world crime scene investigational techniques such as taking proper field notes, protecting and preserving evidence at crime scenes, proper photography techniques and sketching.

The lectures are then followed by hands-on training exercises in each technique, including photographing and sketching evidence, measuring crime scenes and packaging evidence. Students then used their skills they learned to investigate a mock crime scene that was set up in TEEX’s live-fire shoothouse located behind the firing range.

IMG_2458

Students in the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service Forensic Science Academy’s Crime Scene Investigation class try their skills they have learned during the mock crime scene. Photo by Rob Williams

Garner enjoyed the class and said her favorite part was going through the mock crime scene with her group.

“I loved the fact that everything was hands-on and it was easier to retain the information since you are practicing what you learned,” Garner said. “It has been lots of fun.”

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The partnership between the academic Forensic and Investigative Sciences program within the Department of Entomology and the vocational training provided by the TEEX Texas Forensic Science Academy is an example of a multi-agency partnership putting students first. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy continues to strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

Congratulations December Graduates!!!

Katherine LeVrier

Katherine LeVrier waits to line up for graduation during the December commencement ceremony. Photo by Rebecca Hapes.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program would like to congratulate Katherine LeVrier as she becomes one of many December graduates to walk the Reed Arena stage during fall graduation on Friday, December 19.

LeVrier was among the thousands of other students from the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Science, and the Mays Business School that were expected to graduate during the 9 a.m. ceremony.

She graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Forensic and Investigative Sciences with a Science Emphasis.

“We congratulate all of today’s graduates and the family and friends who will be celebrating the achievements of their loved ones. We are so proud of all they have accomplished,” Ragsdale said. “It has been a privilege and a responsibility that the faculty in Entomology and in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences take very seriously.”

Tomberlin’s Research Featured in Video on National Geographic Website

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin, right, being interviewed by Jason Kurtis, left. Photo by Rob Williams

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin, right, being interviewed by Jason Kurtis, left. Photo by Rob Williams

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The mention of the word maggot may bring horrific things to mind and gross a lot of people out. To Dr. Jeff Tomberlin and his team at the FLIES Facility, maggots (fly larvae) are very important scientific tools for assisting law enforcement to solve criminal cases.

Tomberlin was recently featured in a short video that was posted online at National Geographic website at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141029-maggot-flies-bodies-video-forensics-science/  In the video, Tomberlin discusses the ecology of decomposition and how insects can be used to help determine when colonization might have occurred and potentially estimate a minimum time of of a person or animal.

Tomberlin said that when an animal dies, microbes begin in the carcass begin to break down tissues, which produces gases and begins bloating the body over time. Flies used these odors to locate the remains and then lay their eggs or larvae in the moist cavities, such as the nose, mouth, or eyes. The offspring of these flies then feed on the soft tissues.

Different species of flies vary in their diet, and some flies, such as the black soldier fly are omnivorous, which means that they are able to eat a wide variety of foods. He then said that once the maggots eat their share, other insects including beetles, and scavenging animals would eat what is left of the animal.

Forensic entomologists, such as Tomberlin, study flies and maggots to determine what factors influence when insects start colonizing human or animal remains. He said that a better understanding of the colonization times would allow forensic scientists to help better predict the actual time of death of the person in question.

The unknown, Tomberlin said, is what attracts certain insects to a decomposing body. He said that researchers suspect that odors that are released by microbes as they break down certain substances may be a major factor.

Tomberlin said that the video was a great way to allow him to explain what his lab does to the general public.

“This was a great experience and a very excellent opportunity to take science to the general public,” he said.

You can learn more about Dr. Tomberlin’s research at his website: forensicentomology.tamu.edu

Tomberlin, Tarone Labs Help Enrich Youth By Teaching Forensics During Youth Camp

IMG_0561-wordpress1

Students learned how to measure bloodspatter patterns during one of many hands-on activities during the camp. Photo by Rob Williams

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Members of the Dr. Jeff Tomberlin’s FLIES Facility and Dr. Aaron Tarone’s lab helped youths understand how forensic science worked as they taught the Investigative Forensics portion of the Youth Adventure Camp during the last week of July.

The week the labs held the event was part of a series of weeklong courses designed to help gifted and talented youths to explore various careers through interesting demonstrations and hands-on activities. The program encourages students to be highly motivated to learn, think and solve problems and have a strong interest in attending college or professional school in the future.

Dr. r. Aaron Tarone lecturing. Photo by Rob Williams

Dr. Aaron Tarone lectures on handwriting analysis. Photo by Rob Williams

This was the second time that Tarone Lab member and grad student Ashleigh Faris has assisted with the camp. Her favorite part of the camp is seeing the students apply what they have learned in her demonstrations and lectures during the lab times.

“I think this is a great way to introduce them to forensic science and let them see all the disciplines forensics offers,” Faris said. “This lets them see if this is something that they want to do in the future.”

Students worked several hands-on activities including making and measuring their own fingerprints, studying the effects of bloodspatter patterns on different media and tool mark identification. The students then were asked to solve a mock crime scene using what they have learned throughout the week and then present their findings to the class.

Ashleigh Faris teaching

Tarone Lab member Ashleigh Faris teaching students about tool marks. Photo by Rob Williams

Other topics included introductions to the world of forensic science, using DNA for forensics, analyzing questioned documents, forensic anthropology and forensic entomology. During the final session, students got a chance to see a live demonstration of search and rescue dogs led by volunteers Tawni (T.C.) Crippen, Cindy Sheffield, and Jennifer Blanton.

Tawni (T.C.) Crippen demonstrating search dog techniques during the camp. Photo by Rob Williams

Tawni (T.C.) Crippen demonstrating search dog techniques during the camp. Photo by Rob Williams

Some of the topics the volunteers covered included how search and rescue personnel used canines under different situations, what goes into making a good search and rescue dog, and how they train their dogs.

Crippen and Sheffield then held a short live demonstration with their dogs named “Wink” and “Seeker.”

Tomberlin was very impressed with this year’s students and said that they were excited and very eager to learn about forensic and investigative sciences techniques.

“This year’s students are phenomenal. I always appreciate their energy and interest in learning about forensics.”

He also said that the Youth Adventure Program was a great outreach opportunity for his lab.

“YAP is a wonderful opportunity for graduate students and postdoctoral associates to gain experience in the classroom and learn the value of translating science to the general public,” Tomberlin said.

Postdoctoral Research Associate and camp coordinator Jonathan Cammack was very impressed with this year’s camp and said the hard work was worth it.

“The camp was a tremendous amount of work to organize, but after seeing how much the students enjoyed learning about different aspects of forensic science, the hard work of the other instructors and myself was well worth it,” he said. “This year’s groups of students were top-notch; they were very intelligent, inquisitive, and a blast to have worked with for the week. I can’t wait for next year.”

Cammack said that the program was a great way to teach and expose youth to forensic and investigative sciences.

“The Youth Adventure Program provides a great opportunity for us to teach, and more importantly, inspire others about forensic science,” he said. “I hope that our effort leads to each and every one of these students pursuing college degrees, and eventually careers, in some aspect of forensic science. The quality of this year’s students bodes well for the future of forensic science.”

Forensics Student Pursues Career in Military Intelligence

Jeffrey Ng. Photo courtesy of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Jeffrey Ng. Photo courtesy of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

by Angel Futrell, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Major: Forensic and Investigative Sciences and Biomedical Sciences
Graduation: May 2014
Hometown: Missouri City, TX

On his time at Texas A&M…

What did you like most about studying forensic and investigative sciences?
I love how science and law have to co-exist in the courtroom. Every step you take in the crime scene will be crucial in the entire investigation. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to solve crimes. It is not easy to be standing in the witness podium in front of everyone, but once I get there, I know that it is my job as an expert witness to explain the science that has been used in that court case. It is rewarding to be able to explain science in terms that the jury and/or judge in the court can understand what it means.

Besides the Corps of Cadets, what else were you involved in at Texas A&M? 
My objective on campus has been to help promote cultural awareness to those of non-Asian descent, ultimately making an impact on the student body.

Fortunately, I was actively involved in the minority student community from starting as a member of the Hong Kong Students Association (HKSA), to becoming the Director of Funding and ultimately president of HKSA. During the rough times such as fluctuations in membership and funding, I inspired my fellow officers to persevere, and helped maintain positive attitudes and an uplifted atmosphere. Although the process was arduous, the result was bittersweet. We, as a team, were able to reboot the organization and are currently a well-known Asian organization on campus.

Besides my involvement and the time I have invested in the Corps of Cadets, I found Wind Symphony a positive and rewarding musical experience. Moreover, Wind Symphony relieved my stress from other activities that I was involved in.

On his career…

What are you most looking forward to with your career in both the military and later with medicine?
As a future military officer, not only am I honored to serve the country, but it also allows me to strive for excellence in everything I do. I am also very excited to be trained as a cyber-operations officer in order to see the bigger picture in the military sector right after graduation.

I have commissioned into the United States Air Force as a 2nd lieutenant. A cadre suggested that I pursue the intelligence field because of my multi-lingual background – I am fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese and conversational in Japanese and Russian.

In the long run, my general interest in medicine and my motivation to serve in both the civilian and military sector have made me look into podiatry as my long term career.

What have you gained from your time at Texas A&M?
Overall, my experiences at Texas A&M with confluence of emotions are not easily put into words. Without my involvements as a cadet and a leader in Texas A&M, I would not have become a person who is motivated to be an educator and mentor, and to face global challenges. I feel extremely honored to be selected as an invocation leader at my graduation ceremony. This gives me a final opportunity to make an impact into the A&M student body.

Once an Aggie, forever an Aggie. I will always reach out globally, explore new things, and then use this gift to its fullest potential to benefit others. Consequently, not only will my character grow with greater extent, but it will always be my role to revere the traditions and pass them on to the next generations, which includes our Aggie War Hymn, Honor Code, corps values and most importantly, the dauntless Aggie spirit.

Large Number of FIVS Students Receive Forensic Technician Certification During May Minimester

Students standing for award photo
Students standing for award photo

Nine Forensic and Investigative Sciences students received Forensic Technician certificates this May. Pictured are from left to right: Back row: Kyle Beckman, Caitlin Otto, Ashley Maynard, and Lauren Frankino. Front row: Ashley Maynard, Charnae’ Kearney, Charlotte Dearman and Kelsey Muniz.

BRYAN, Texas – Nine Forensic and Investigative Sciences students are now ready to work as technicians as they recently received their Forensic Technician certificates after the Texas Forensic Science Academy’s Latent Print Processing course at Riverside Campus on Friday, May 23.

Jeffrey Ng, left, shows Juliane Hough how to photograph an image of a fingerprint during a lab session of the Texas Forensic Science Academy's Latent Print Processing course

Jeffrey Ng, left, shows Juliane Hough how to photograph an image of a fingerprint during a lab session of the Texas Forensic Science Academy’s Latent Print Processing course. Photo by Rob Williams

The May minimester recipients were Caitlin Otto, Kyle Beckman, Juliane Hough, Charlotte Dearman, Ashley Maynard, Lauren Frankino, Charnae’ Kearney, Kelsey Muniz, and Jeffrey Ng. Also participating in the course was Kelsey Garner.

The students were selected to participate in two courses during the spring semester that are part of a partnership with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service and the Department of Entomology’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program. Held each January and May, the courses are designed to give students hands-on experience in techniques used by law enforcement professionals worldwide.

The program’s total of 80 hours of instruction consists of two 40-hour-long courses in latent fingerprint processing and crime scene investigation techniques. During these courses, the students receive lecture type and hands-on training using the latest technology and techniques used in the real world.

In the Latent Print Processing course, students learned different basic techniques for processing latent fingerprints and enhancing visible prints from crime scenes. They also received instruction in taking and processing prints from physical evidence collected from the scene, as well as correctly photographing processed prints for recording. The crime scene investigation course covers such topics as crime scene searches, scene documentation and proper evidence handling. Students completing both 40-hour courses earn a Forensic Technician Certificate and receive elective credit towards their degrees.

Jeffrey Ng recently graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Forensic and Investigative Sciences with a Science Emphasis in May and was taking this course to complete his certification.

Ng enjoyed participating in both courses and said that taking both were very important in keeping up to date with the latest techniques law enforcement uses in the field. “The courses are great and they give a lot of hands-on experience,” he said. “They will definitely help me to be more confident in what I am doing.”

IMG_0268

Charlotte Dearman taking a photo of a fingerprint that was collected during class. Photo by Rob Williams

Senior Charlotte Dearman loved the courses and said both were beneficial in helping her to prepare for the future.

“I think that this course will be really helpful in my future career,” she said. “Everything we are doing here helps us greatly and is applicable to what’s out there in the world.”

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The partnership between the academic Forensic and Investigative Sciences program within the Department of Entomology and the vocational training provided by the TEEX Texas Forensic Science Academy is an example of a multiagency partnership putting students first. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy continues to strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

Forensics Students Celebrated Spring 2014 Graduation

Forensic and Investigative Sciences graduating class. (from left to right) Front Row: Lauren Quirch, Sarah Norman, Cindy Rodriguez, Sunday Saenz, Courtney Weldon, Jacqueline Wenzlaff Back Row: Angela Perez, Caitlin Evers, Barrett Riddle, Neil Higgs, Tyler Smith, Nina Caserio, and Dana Zuber. Photo by Ann Pool
Forensic and Investigative Sciences graduating class. (from left to right) Front Row: Lauren Quirch, Sarah Norman, Cindy Rodriguez, Sunday Saenz, Courtney Weldon, Jacqueline Wenzlaff Back Row: Angela Perez, Caitlin Evers, Barrett Riddle, Neil Higgs, Tyler Smith, Nina Caserio, and Dana Zuber. Photo by Ann Pool

Forensic and Investigative Sciences graduating class. (from left to right) Front Row: Lauren Quirch, Sarah Norman, Cindy Rodriguez, Sunday Saenz, Courtney Weldon, Jacqueline Wenzlaff Back Row: Angela Perez, Caitlin Evers, Barrett Riddle, Neil Higgs, Tyler Smith, Nina Caserio, and Dana Zuber. Photo by Ann Pool

Sixteen students in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program recently gave their mothers a great early Mother’s Day present during the Saturday evening commencement ceremony on May 10.

The students were part of a record number of Aggies that were awarded degrees during the university’s two-day-long graduation ceremonies.

IMG_0146

Caitlin Evers, left, and Sarah Norman enjoying the pre-graduation reception. Photo by Rob Williams.

Before the ceremony, students and families began graduation weekend by attending the convocation Thursday night where they listened to encouraging words from The Honorable Todd Staples, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture.

On Friday afternoon, graduates and their guests were honored at a reception on the fourth floor atrium in the Minnie Belle Heep Building.

Entomology Department Head Dr. David Ragsdale welcomed parents and wished all students good luck on their future endeavors.

“We have some incredible and talented students going out in the world,” he said. “We are so proud of everyone and their accomplishments.”

Miguel Carpio Forensic and Investigative Sciences –Science emphasis, Psychology minor
Nina Marie Caserio Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Caitlin Evers Forensic and Investigative Sciences and Entomology-Science emphasis
David Higgs Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science emphasis
Andrew Ly Forensic and Investigative Sciences and Entomology
Jeffrey Ng Forensic and Investigative Science and Biomedical Science
Sarah Norman Forensic and Investigative Sciences-Science Emphasis
Angela Perez Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis, Sociology Minor
Lauren Quirch Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis, Psychology Minor
Barrett Riddle Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Cindy Rodriguez Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis, Chemistry Minor
Sunday Saenz Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis, Chemistry Minor
Tyler Smith Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Courtney Weldon Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Jacqueline Wenzlaff Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Dana Zuber Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis

Forensics Students Honored for Outstdanding Service, Merit

1013587_10152126004863195_4943439717126349631_n

Entomology Department Head Dr. David Ragsdale, far left, stands with Courtney Weldon, Barrett Riddle, center, and Jeffrey Ng, right, during the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences annual convocation. Photo by Rebecca Hapes.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Three Forensic and Investigative Sciences students were recently recognized at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ annual Spring Awards Convocation on April 12.

Seniors Courtney Weldon, Barrett Riddle, and Jeffrey Ng received Senior Merit Awards for their leadership, scholarship and service at the department, college and university level.  The Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Senior Merit Award is the highest award given to undergraduates by the College. Senior Merit Awards have been given by our college at this convocation for more than 50 years.  Junior Emily Buckley is an Entomology student who was selected for an internship with the Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy program and Erin will work as an ANRP intern in Washington, D.C. this summer.

Weldon is a senior Forensic and Investigative Sciences major and is from College Station. She has served of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the National Society of Leadership and Success, and Sigma Alpha Lambda. She has served as the vice president for 2 years and director of public relations for the American Medical Student Association from 2011-2012.

In 2012, she participated in the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research program, or SPUR, an undergraduate research program that provides students experience in research in the field of forensic and investigative sciences. She has been involved in other service opportunities, such as the Courtney Grimshaw Fowler Equine Therapeutic Program at Freeman Arena and writing letters to Marines deployed in Afghanistan.

“Receiving this award reminded me of everyone I am thankful for during my undergraduate degree at Texas A&M,” Weldon said. “I would not be where I am today without the support and guidance of the department, my friends and family.”

Riddle is a senior Forensic and Investigative Sciences major from Port Neches. He has been involved with many student organizations, including the Entomology Scholars Society, the Community Assessment of Community Annotations with Ontologies (CACAO), and the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization.

For community service, Riddle has participated in the 2012 Big Event, and served as a mentor at the Brazos Valley Juvenile Services, as well as volunteering at Christus St. Mary Hospital. He has received numerous awards including the Gamma Sigma Delta Award and the Deans Honor Roll in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Receiving the senior merit award really meant a lot to me. I feel that it really shows how outstanding the department of entomology is that three of our graduating seniors received this award,” Riddle said. “Receiving an award of this magnitude is not something that can be attributed to only the recipient. We received our awards with the help of our amazing professors and advisors.”

Ng is a senior forensic and investigative sciences major from Missouri City, Texas. He is currently a prayer team leader for the Asian American InterVarsity and plays the E-flat clarinet for the Texas A&M Wind Symphony. He also was a member of the Company V-1, Squadron 20 of the Texas A&M Corp of Cadets, where he served as platoon officer and scholastic officer and squad leader. He also has served as president of the Texas A&M Hong Kong Students Association, as well as a Counselor at the 2010 Fish Camp.

Ng also has been very active in the community and volunteers at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bryan in the Medical Staff Services Department and served as a volunteer at the Big Event and participated in the March to the Brazos fundraiser for the March of Dimes.

Eligible students must be projected to graduate during the 2014 calendar year. Nominations are received from each major and the final selection of winners is made by the college scholarship committee.

Recent Graduates Receive Forensic Certification During Spring Minimester

Callan Hundl, left, and Hannah Beckerdite, right received their Forensic Technician certificates during the final day of the TEEX Forensic Science Academy's Crime Scene Investigation course. Photo by Christine Ramirez, TEEX.

Callan Hundl, left, and Hannah Beckerdite, right, received their Forensic Technician certificates during the final day of the TEEX Forensic Science Academy’s Crime Scene Investigation course. Photo by Christine Ramirez, TEEX.

BRYAN, Texas –The New Year has started off right for recent Forensic and Investigative Sciences graduates Hannah Beckerdite and Callan Hundl as they received their Forensic Technician certification at Riverside Campus the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s Forensic Science Academy Crime Scene Investigation course.

Beckerdite and Hundl were among 12 participants enrolled in the weeklong course, held during the second week in January at various locations around Riverside Campus. Other participants also were Kyle Beckman, Ashley Maynard, Caitlin Otto, Kelsey Muniz, Carmen Tellez, Jennie Rhinesmith, Charlotte Denman, Julianne Bounds and Charnae’ Kearney.

To qualify for the certificate, students must complete two intensive weeklong training sessions in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Processing (visit the TEEX Forensic Science Academy for more information). Once the students pass the exams and complete coursework, they receive a certificate and are awarded four credit hours for the courses.

Hannah Beckerdite, left, and Kyle Beckman, right, recording evidence during a mock crime scene at the TEEX Live Fire Shoot House during the Forensic Science Academy CSI course

Hannah Beckerdite, left, and Kyle Beckman, right, recording evidence during a mock crime scene at the TEEX Live Fire Shoot House during the Forensic Science Academy CSI course

Some of the investigational techniques students learned included how to take proper field notes, protecting and preserving evidence at crime scenes, photography and sketching.

After each lecture, students then received hands-on training in proper photography techniques, sketching and measuring and packaging evidence. The students then used what they have learned throughout the week to investigate a mock crime scene that was set up at the TEEX live-fire shoothouse located behind the firing range.

Hundl is planning to apply for either a crime scene technician or latent print processing position and said that she enjoyed taking both courses.

Forensic Science Academy CSI class at Riverside Campus.

Kelsey Muniz marking off part of a crime scene during the mock crime scene portion of the TEEX Forensic Science Academy CSI class at Riverside Campus.

“I love it,” Hundl said. “This is a great course and has been very helpful.”

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The partnership between the academic Forensic and Investigative Sciences program within the Department of Entomology and the vocational training provided by the TEEX Texas Forensic Science Academy is an example of a multiagency partnership putting students first. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy continues to strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

Congratulations December Graduates!!

Forensics students lining up before graduation at Reed Arena. from left to right are: Bailey Harrington, Hannah Beckerdite, Kathleen McStravick and Callan Hundl. Photo by Rebecca Hapes

Forensics students lining up before graduation at Reed Arena. from left to right are: Bailey Harrington, Hannah Beckerdite, Kathleen McStravick and Callan Hundl. Photo by Rebecca Hapes

Four Forensics students received a very early Christmas gift as they braved the cold mid-December morning at Reed Arena during fall graduation on December 13.

The graduating class was among the more than 3,700 students from the university that were expected to graduate this fall. Families and friends also got a chance to hear Dr. Bowen Loftin for the last time on Thursday night at the pre-commencement convocation at Rudder Theatre and celebrated with a special breakfast reception in the fourth floor atrium of the Heep Center before the lineup began.

“We want to extend our congratulations to you and we wish you guys the very best,” said Associate Department Head for Academic Progams Dr. Pete Teel.

Congratulations to the following students that are expected to graduate this fall:

  • Kathleen McStravick  – Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis
  • Hannah Beckerdite – Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
  • Bailey Harrington – Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis and Psychology
  • Callan Hundl – Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis

Former Students Receive Certification from International Forensic Entomology Board

Micah Flores with Dr. Jeff Tomberlin

Micah Flores, right, with Dr. Jeff Tomberlin

Four former students now have another success story to tell as they received a very important certification from the only forensic entomology certification organizations in North America.

Drs. Micah Flores, Adrienne Brundage, Michelle Sanford, and Jonathan Cammack were given the high honors by receiving their Member certifications from the American Board of Forensic Entomology in August 2013.

The Member certification helps validate the expertise of the individual with identification, processing, analyzing and interpretation of forensically important arthropod evidence associated with human remains, said Dr. Jeff Tomberlin, Assistant Professor of Entomology and the AFBE’s diplomat and vice chair. In most cases, such experts are asked to assist with death investigations where decomposing human remains have been discovered.

Tomberlin said that there are only 17 individuals that are board certified in forensic entomology throughout North America. This low number is partly due to the rigorous standards associated with the field and the degree of difficulty with the examination.

“This accomplishment by these former students should be applauded as they successfully passed an exam that entails a written and laboratory practicum that requires approximately 12 hours to complete,” Tomberlin said. “Many individuals are not successful in passing the exam and our former students doing so demonstrates their hard work, dedication and great level of training received through part of their education that occurred in affiliation with Texas A&M University.”

Micah Flores, who recently completed his PhD in the laboratory

of Dr. Jeff Tomberlin, heard about the certification from Dr. Jimmy Olson’s forensic entomology course when he was an undergraduate. Flores said the certification provide the credentials enabling him to train law enforcement personnel about forensic entomology, as well as continuing his research on blow flies which are the primary insects that colonize dead bodies.

“I feel that anyone assisting with cases should be board certified in order to have uniform methods used for estimating the time of colonization and inferring a minimum postmortem interval (time of death) and to help shape standard operating procedures for future forensic entomologists,” he said.

Flores currently is working as a Research Entomologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Adrienne Brundage

Adrienne Brundage

Brundage is a former student from the class of 2011 and was also mentored by Tomberlin and is currently employed as a lecturer in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University.

“This is awesome,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do what I am doing without that education and, especially with input from Dr. Tomberlin.”

Brundage is planning on using the certification to help her with teaching higher education, as well as assisting with casework.

Sanford, who received her PhD in Dr. Tomberlin’s lab at Texas A&M University in 2010, currently works as a forensic entomologist with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston. She is the first forensic entomologist in the nation to be employed full time in a medical examiner/coroner’s setting and said the education she received has helped her tremendously.

“The breadth of medical and forensic entomology training I received at Texas A&M helped to prepare me for the wide variety of insect-related cases that are referred to me in the medical examiner’s office,” she said.

Michelle Sanford

Michelle Sanford

Sanford was very excited about being certified and loved the fact that it will help her with her career.

“I am enthusiastic about becoming board certified,” she said. “It is the start of being capable of providing meaningful contributions to the field and helping to make entomology standards and practices even more valuable to existing practices and analyses currently used in medicolegal death investigations.”

Cammack completed his undergraduate degree in Entomology in 2009. He pursued his M.S. in Entomology at Clemson University where he was co-advised by Drs. Peter Adler and Jeff Tomberlin. He heard about the certification after speaking to some colleagues at a previous North American Forensic Entomology Conference. He feels that certification is a very important part of his professional life.

Jonathan Cammack

Jonathan Cammack

“Becoming certified is a culmination of many years of hard work, and I am proud to now be a member of the ABFE,” he said. “This certification shows that other professionals in the field feel that I am knowledgeable on the subject of forensic entomology, and that professionally, I am a benefit to both the field and to individuals seeking assistance with evidence analysis/case work.”

Cammack currently works as a research associate in Dr. Wes Watson’s lab in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University. He said that the certification, along with his education at A&M and at Clemson has helped him tremendously with his career path.

All four Members will become eligible for the Diplomate rank within 5 years.

Congratulations Summer 2013 Graduates!

COLLEGE STATION, Texas–Five Forensic and Investigative Sciences students were among thousands of others that braved the warm afternoon outside Reed Arena as they walked the stage on August 16.

The students were among hundreds of other graduating students in the Colleges of Agriculture and Agriculture, George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Mays Business School and the Dwight Look College of Engineering during the afternoon ceremony.

Before the Friday ceremony, students and their families had a chance to listen to Head Coach of the Texas A&M Women’s Softball Jo Evans speak at a special convocation at Rudder Auditorium on Thursday. Students and faculty celebrated this momentous occasion over sandwiches, cake and other finger foods during a special reception in the Heep Center fourth floor atrium on Friday.

“I am ecstatic about our graduating class this summer,” said Assistant Professor Dr. Jeff Tomberlin. “They represent what is best about Texas A&M University, the Department of Entomology, and the Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program.”

Congratulations to the following students that are expected to graduate this summer:

Rebecca Leigh Evans Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Madison Henry Gaytan Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Donald (Henre) Honnas Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis
Caitlin Stepchinski Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis
Lyndsey Ryan Turman Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis

Youths Learn Forensics from Tomberlin, Tarone Labs During Program

Grad student Ashleigh Faris teaching students about bloodspatter patterns during an outside session of the Forensics class.

Tarone Lab grad student Ashleigh Faris teaching students about bloodspatter patterns during an outside session of the Forensics class.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—Grad students from Dr. Jeffery Tomberlin’s and Aaron Tarone’s labs gave students a short course in forensic and investigative sciences during the 2012 Youth Adventure Program this summer.

Held during the last week of July, participants in the program are highly motivated to learn, think, and solve problems, and they typically have a strong interest in going to a college, university, and/or professional school. Each student selects one area of interest and studies only that area for an entire YAP session, getting in-depth insights into the experiences of professionals in that particular field.

Youths watched as lab members demonstrated various forensic and investigative science techniques, including measuring bloodspatter patterns, lifting fingerprints from different media, measuring blunt force and sharp force trauma, and collecting evidence at crime scenes.

During the Friday session, youths used what was learned in the hands-on demonstrations as they were divided into teams and assigned various mock crime scenes to investigate. The teams then created a report and presented it to the class during the afternoon.

This is the fifth year that Tomberlin’s grad students have helped volunteer. He said the program was a great way for the youths to learn about forensics and the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program.

“The program is an excellent mechanism through which Texas A&M can recruit future students,” he said. “I also see it as an excellent opportunity for us to showcase the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program.”

This was Ph.D. student Lue Cuttiford’s first time to help teach during a session and she said that it was a great way to get teaching experience, as well as brush up on skills.

“This is going to be great practice for me,” she said.

This also was Tarone lab member and grad student Ashleigh Faris’ first time to be with the program. She loved it so far.

“This is a great way for the kids to get exposed to forensic sciences,” Faris said. “It’s also nice that they get to see a different side to forensics other than what is shown on television. It is totally different.”

Four Students Receive Forensic Technician Certification from Texas Forensic Science Academy

The Forensic and Investigative program and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service would like to extend their congratulations to four students that received their Forensic Technician certificates in May.

Seniors Sunday Saenz, Tyler Smith, Neil Higgs and Caitlin Evers received the certificates after completing both the required Latent Print Processing and Crime Scene Investigation techniques workshops offered by TEEX’s Texas Forensic Science Academy.

recipients for May 2013

Four students received their Forensic Technician certifications in May during the Latent Print Processing course at Riverside Campus. Pictured from left to right are: Caitlin Evers, Sunday Saenz, Tyler Smith, and Neil Higgs. Photo submitted by TEEX.

IMG_8690-wordpress

Tyler Smith setting up his camera to photograph a fingerprint found on a label. Photo by Rob Williams.

Led by TFSA Coordinator Christine Ramirez, the courses are cross-listed in the Texas A&M catalog as FIVS 421 and 422  under the Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program. Students can earn 2 credit hours for each course. To earn the Forensic Technician certificate, students must complete both the 40-hour Crime Scene Investigation and 40- hour Latent Print Processing courses.

The training is part of the Texas Forensic Science Academy, a collaboration between Texas A&M’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program and TEEX as a way of training law enforcement professionals and non-commissioned personnel responsible for either processing and investigating crime scenes or handling evidence used in preparing criminal cases.

The courses provide participants with information, techniques, and methodologies for conducting crime scene investigations and processing crime scene evidence. Completion of this certification is equivalent to completion of the FSA106 – Crime Scene Investigation and FSA104 – Latent Print Processing courses.

Students in the Latent Print Processing course learned different basic techniques for processing latent fingerprints and enhancing visible prints from crime scenes. They also received instruction in taking and processing prints from physical evidence collected from the scene. The crime scene investigation course covers such topics as crime scene searches, scene documentation and proper evidence handling.

“I thought the class was great and loved learning the hands-on activities,” Higgs said. Higgs plans on attending dental school after graduation.

“This was a great class. The instruction has been awesome and I felt like all the information was current and relevant,” said Hannah Beckerdite, a senior Forensic and Investigative Sciences major.

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The Department of Entomology enjoys its partnership with TEEX’s Texas Forensic Science Academy. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy will strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

Forensics Students Among Record Spring 2013 Graduation

For WordPress - 2COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The Forensic and Investigative Sciences program would like to congratulate those that were among a record-setting 7,100 Aggies during spring commencement exercises held on Saturday, May 11 at Reed Arena.

Fourteen students were among thousands of other students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences expected to walk the stage during the evening commencement ceremony. Families also got to hear from United States Congressman Bill Flores during a special convocation on Thursday.

Students and faculty celebrated this momentous occasion over wings and other items at Wings n’ More in College Station. Dr. Pete Teel, associate department head for academic programs congratulated everyone and wished them good luck in their futures.

“We want to extend our congratulations to you and we wish you guys the very best,” Teel said. Students also reminisced about their time at A&M and gave their best memories.

Several of the seniors attending the special lunch also reminisced about their undergraduate days at Texas A&M and shared their plans after graduation during the luncheon.

Congratulations to all that are expected to walk this spring:

Savannah Allison FIVS-LWE
Julie Butler FIVS
Kimberly DeBlois FIVS
Lauren Garmley FIVS/LWE
Ellyn Ingle FIVS-SCE
Lindsey Thompson FIVS/SCE
Alexander Benson FIVS
Samantha Britt FIVS
Feng Chen FIVS
Christopher Hensley FIVS
Jenny King FIVS
Diana Luevanos FIVS
Amanda Pena FIVS
Kris Dawson FIVS-SCE

Forensics Student Courtney Weldon Named “Class Star” for Outstanding Community Service

IMG_0735

Courtney Weldon. Submitted photo.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Congratulations to senior Forensic and Investigative Sciences major Courtney Weldon as she received the 2013 Class Star Award for service from the Texas A&M University Class Councils.

A select number of students from each class year received recognition for outstanding work in five categories : Academics, Athletics, Leadership, Service and Spirit. These students were recently recognized at a special banquet in early April.

Weldon is working in Dr. Jeff Tomberlin’s Forensic Laboratory for Investigative Entomological Sciences (FLIES) Laboratory. Her research focuses on isolating and describing the bacteria fauna associated with the salivary glands of the blow fly Lucilia sericata (Diptera: Calliphoridae). She is also working on examining the role of quorum sensing by bacteria as a mechanism regulating adult blow fly behavior.

Last year, Weldon participated in the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research program, or SPUR, an undergraduate research program that provides students experience in research in the field of forensic and investigative sciences, where she continued her current research.

She is an active volunteer at Camp for All in Burton, Texas, which hosts camps week for children and families who have physical or mental disabilities by aiding campers as they ride horses and encouraging them to have confidence to communicate with the horses.

In addition to Camp for All, Weldon has been involved in other service opportunities, such as the Courtney Grimshaw Fowler Equine Therapeutic Program at Freeman Arena and writing letters to Marines deployed in Afghanistan.

“I believe that it is our duty as citizens to give back to our country by spending our free time or even our careers doing service such as community service, military service, or public service, Weldon said. “Serving others builds character in a way that inspires other people. Service means that I am able to impact the community or support a cause in a selfless manner. I choose to be a part of something bigger.”

A nominator noted that Weldon is a great person and that she has gone above and beyond to help others in the community.

“Courtney always has shown her desire to serve others, but this passion strengthened when she became an Aggie because she embraced all the opportunities to touch others’ lives,” the nominator said in the letter.  “Courtney deserves this award because she never puts herself before others and her service has impacted countless lives in our community.”

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin, Weldon’s mentor, director and principal investigator of the FLIES Lab, was very proud of her accomplishments and her dedication and hard work.

“Courtney is an outstanding student and member of the Aggie Family! Her dedication to the community is difficult to match- but easy to admire!” Tomberlin said. “Courtney is yet another example of the quality of student in the Forensic & Investigative Sciences Program at Texas A&M University. She will serve as an example for others in the major as well as across the A&M campus.”

Forensics Students Recognized During Annual Banquet

Dr. Pete Teel giving a speech

Dr. Pete Teel giving an inspirational speech to parents and students during the banquet..

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The cool mid-April air was a perfect setting for the Department of Entomology’s annual Undergraduate Recognition Banquet on Thursday, April 11.

The banquet recognizes the outstanding achievements that students in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program have done during the year.

banquet30

Dr. Craig Coates, left, receives the Professor of the Year award from AFIS member Dominic Burke.

After a moment of silence and an Italian style dinner, Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization member Olivia Nirider updated the audience on the various activities that AFISO members and other students were involved in through the year.

Professor and Associate Department Head for Academic Programs Dr. Pete Teel gave a very inspiring and motivational keynote speech to the audience. He told students to keep pursuing their dreams and to be prepared but not discouraged when there are any twists and turns in achieving those dreams.

Teel said that the group graduating in May was graduating at a perfect time when the greatest challenge of agriculture is feeding the people of the world. He noted that entomology, as well as public health entomology issues are of the forefront of today’s agricultural educational community.

banquet38

Emily Grimshaw, left, receives a certificate honoring her as the AFIS Outstanding Student of the Year from Dominic Burke.

“Your presence here is recognition enough of your success in your career paths,” Teel said. “You are definitely in the right place at the right time.”

He also told them to make sure that they are planned for any unexpected events that may come about during their stages of life after graduation.

“Life will throw many things at you, including achievements, risks, roadblocks, and change,” he said. “It’s always good to have a backup plan.”

Several awards and scholarships were announced, including the unveiling of the 2013-2014 Scholars Society. This year’s members are: Chelsea Gould, Jason Gould, Andrew Ly, Devin Beach and Barrett Riddle.

Scholarships were also given to the following Forensics students:

Barrett Riddle – Fowden G. and Katherine G. Maxwell Scholarship

Kelsey Muniz – Manning A. Price Scholarship

Caitlin Evers – Dial and Eva Martin Memorial Scholarship

Jeffrey Ng – Paul Truman Riherd Memorial Scholarship

Cindy Rodriguez – Dr. Wharton Outstanding Faculty Scholarship

Sarah Norman – Department of Entomology Scholarship

Jacqueline Wenzlaff – Department of Entomology Scholarship

There also were several special awards given out by AFIS, including the Professor of the Year and the outsdanding member of the year.

Dr. Craig Coates received the Professor of the Year while sophomore Emily Grimshaw was honored with the Outstanding FIVS Member of the Year award.

Officers for the 2013-2014 year were announced during the end of the banquet, which included the following students:

Sunday Saenz – President

Olivia Nirider – Vice President

Emily Grimshaw – Treasurer

Angela Ruffino – Secretary

Stephanie Stratta – Historian

Devin Beach – Activities Coordinator

Forensics Students Receive Technician Certificates

Kris Dawson (left) and Lauren Garmley (right) received their Forensic Technician certificates after completing the Texas Forensic Academy's Crime Scene Investigation course early January

Kris Dawson (left) and Lauren Garmley (right) received their Forensic Technician certificates after completing the Texas Forensic Academy’s Crime Scene Investigation course early January. Photo by Heidi Hard, TEEX

BRYAN, Texas – Two students in the Forensics and Investigative Sciences program started off the New Year right as they received the Forensic Technician certificate from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service in January.

Senior Forensic and Investigative Sciences major Lauren Garmley and Senior Forensic and Investigative Sciences major Kris Dawson received the International Association for Identification sanctioned Forensic Technician certificates for completing the necessary coursework laid out by TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy.

Neil Higgs photographing evidence at the mock crime scene at the Texas A&M Engineering Service prop house. Photo by Rob Williams.

Neil Higgs photographing evidence at the mock crime scene at the Texas A&M Engineering Service prop house. Photo by Rob Williams.

Both students received their certificates after completing the Crime Scene Investigation course held during the second week of January at the Riverside Campus location. Students participating in the course consisted of mostly juniors and seniors majoring in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program.  Other students participating in the course included Tyler Smith, Sunday Saenz, Caitlin Evers, and Neil Higgs.

To qualify for the certificate, students must complete two intensive weeklong training sessions in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Processing (visit the TEEX Forensic Science Academy for more information). Once the students pass the exams and complete coursework, they receive a certificate and are awarded four credit hours for the courses.

Some of the investigational techniques students learned included how to take proper field notes, protecting and preserving evidence at crime scenes, photography and sketching. Students were exposed to examples from past cases for each topic covered in the course.

After each lecture, students then received hands-on training in proper photography techniques, sketching and measuring and packaging evidence. The students then used what they have learned throughout the week to investigate a mock crime scene set up in one of the TEEX prop houses.

Texas Forensic Science Academy Coordinator Christine Ramirez was proud of the students for working so hard.

“They really are a great group,” she said. “They have been so attentive and interested in learning. They are doing a great job.”

Tyler Smith, left, and Kris Dawson, right, examine evidence at a mock scene exercise inside the TEEX building at Riverside Campus. Photo by Rob Williams

Tyler Smith, left, and Kris Dawson, right, examine evidence at a mock scene exercise inside the TEEX building at Riverside Campus. Photo by Rob Williams

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The partnership between the academic Forensic and Investigative Sciences program within the Department of Entomology and the vocational training provided by the TEEX Texas Forensic Science Academy is an example of a multiagency partnership putting students first. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy continues to strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

Forensics Celebrates Graduation of Two Students For Fall 2012

Kortney Parchman and Alex Weghorst

COLLEGE STATION, Texas –Two students in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program received an early Christmas gift this December as they walked the stage during commencement exercises on Friday, December 14.

Kortney Parchman and Alex Weghorst

Kortney Parchman and Alex Weghorst pose for a photo during a reception held for December graduates before the 9am ceremony on December 14. Photo by Rob Williams

Kortney Parchman and Alex Weghorst joined more than a thousand Aggies from the Forensic and Investigative Sciences during the 9am ceremony Friday morning.

Before the ceremonies, parents and students heard some good political humor and insight from American political consultant Mary Matalin as she spoke during a special convocation held Thursday night.

Friday’s events included a special reception for parents and families of students held on the fourth floor atrium. Excitement was in the air as most students shared memories of their years in the Department. Proud parents also got a chance to take photos of their children with professors and other members.

Alex Weghorst’s father Hank Weghorst was excited and for his son graduating and praised the Forensics program for being an excellent program.

“We have been very pleased with the Forensics program and what it has meant to him and our family,” Weghorst said. “It’s been a good run.”

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin was excited to see Parchman graduate and was proud of her for her accomplishments.

“It’s been a great experience having Kortney go through the program,” he said. “She is very bright and has an exceptional future in front of her.”

Join us in congratulating our Fall 2012 graduates!  Check back with us now and then as we report on their future accomplishments.  Gig ‘em FIVS Aggies!

Kortney Parchman          Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis

Alex Weghorst               Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis

With an Eye Toward Justice, FIVS Interdisciplinary Faculty Member Takes Statistics to the Courtroom

Cliff Spiegelman. Photo By Kendra Beasley, College of Science
Cliff Spiegelman

Texas A&M statistician Cliff Spiegelman applies his professional expertise to make a difference in the courtroom, helping to provide justice for those wrongly convicted of crimes on the basis of flawed forensic science. Photo by Kendra Beasley, College Of Science

COLLEGE STATION — Cliff Spiegelman keeps a thank-you note from a client, along with a retainer for his professional services on that effort, a $1 bill. That’s more than the distinguished professor in the Texas A&M University Department of Statistics often gets for his public service. But his mission to improve forensic science in the criminal justice system isn’t about money.

“I couldn’t sleep at night, knowing that I didn’t stand up and do the right thing,” Spiegelman said from his office, where the United States Constitution, in four-poster-sized frames, looms over his desk.

Spiegelman makes a few out-of-state trips a year to testify in cases in which he believes the forensic science is flawed. He often works with the Innocence Project, the national non-profit legal clinic dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and other post-verdict methods.

But before Spiegelman agrees to take on a trial-level case, he has a prerequisite: He has to be convinced there’s a chance the defendant is innocent.

“My conversations with the defense lawyers go something like this: If your guy confessed to you and you believe him, please find someone else,” Spiegelman said.

Relying on his statistics expertise, Spiegelman was an ardent opponent of a method of forensic testing called Comparative Bullet-Lead Analysis (CBLA), which partly through his work the FBI discredited in 2007. The abandoned technique, which used chemistry to link bullets from a crime scene to those owned by a suspect, was first used following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Evidence Is Everything

Photograph of one of the two full boxes of Mannlicher-Carcano bullets — the same type believed to have been used in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination — that Spiegelman’s team bought and he helped analyze for their previous award-winning study. Manufactured in 1954, the bullets now are considered antiques, Spiegelman says, mainly because most surviving bullets have been bought up by conspiracy buffs. Photo By: Kendra Beasley, College of Science

Spiegelman admits it’s often been a challenge bringing statistics to the criminal justice system, where the concept of stare decisis — the legal reverence to precedence — makes changes to the system difficult. But, he says, it’s a mistake not to embrace statistics in the courtroom.

“There’s always the chance of error,” he said. “So, for instance, if a hair from the defendant is similar to one found at the crime scene, the issue is, what is the frequency of hairs that are similar in the general population? Ninety percent? Ten percent? One percent? The relevance of the evidence is based in part on how common it is. And that’s a statistical issue.”

Spiegelman’s interest in statistical forensics was sparked in 2002, when, because of his expertise in statistics in chemistry, he was appointed to serve on a National Research Council (NRC) panel to study bullet lead evidence. During the meetings, he would step out to inject himself in the stomach with a high dose of interferon as part of a difficult chemotherapy treatment.

Spiegelman’s doctor gave him a 50 percent chance of living. Instead of quitting the panel to focus on his treatment, Spiegelman immersed himself in the work with the stark realization that it could be his last professional act.

The treatment was a success, and while he overcame the threat to his life, his passion for statistical forensics remained.

In 2008, Spiegelman was a co-recipient of a prestigious national award for leading a team that published a paper finding that forensic evidence used to rule out the presence of a second shooter in President Kennedy’s slaying was fundamentally flawed. He shared the American Statistical Association’s 2008 Statistics in Chemistry Award with Simon Sheather, professor and head of the Texas A&M Department of Statistics, William D. James, a researcher with the Texas A&M Center for Chemical Characterization and Analysis (CCCA), and three other co-authors.

The paper showed that the bullet fragments involved in the assassination were not nearly as rare as previously thought, and that the likelihood that all the fragments didn’t come from the same batch of bullets also was greater than previously thought. Bullet matches were found to be much more likely than was indicated in testimony presented before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which was formed in 1976 to investigate the assassinations of President Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other shootings with similar national prominence.

Spiegelman doesn’t take a stance on whether he believes presumed assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. That’s beyond his scope of examining the quality of the CBLA forensic science, he says. And though he often receives letters because of his assassination research — like the one from a clergyman who says he delivered last rites to a condemned mobster in Central America who said the mob was involved, and the Aggie who claims to have found the second shooter’s rifle in a hotel room the day after the assassination — he stresses that he’s not a Kennedy assassination buff.

But Spiegelman says the Kennedy case is the ultimate example: If the science could be wrong in a case with intense public interest and with the government having all the resources it needed, then it certainly could — and has often been — wrong in much more low-profile cases.

Spiegelman says the discrediting of CBLA as an unreliable procedure was the result of a years-long, multi-pronged effort. One of his co-authors on the Kennedy paper — William A. Tobin, a former chief metallurgist for the FBI — had been raising concerns about the technique since the 1990s, leading to the convening of the NRC panel that studied the technique. But it wasn’t until national media such as CBS’ 60 Minutes and The Washington Post started reporting on CBLA in 2007 that the FBI officially announced it would permanently discontinue use of the procedure.

“It takes a village to take down bad forensic science,” Spiegelman said.

Spiegelman was a founder within the statistical sciences of the field of chemometrics, the science of using data to extract information from chemical systems. He also is a senior research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the state of Texas’ transportation research agency. He joined the Texas A&M Department of Statistics in 1987 as an associate professor and became a distinguished professor in 2009.

For more about Texas A&M Statistics, visit http://www.stat.tamu.edu.

To learn more about the Innocence Project, go to http://www.innocenceproject.org.

Contact: Vimal Patel, (979) 845-7246 or vpatel@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Cliff Spiegelman, (979) 845-3141 or cliff@stat.tamu.edu

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.

 

Forensics Celebrates Summer Graduation of Two Students

AgriLife Logo

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences program congratulates two students that walked the stage at Reed Arena during August graduation on Friday, August 10.

Students Bryce Dorwart and Daniel Kelly joined thousands of other Aggies, as well as their fellow students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences during the morning commencement ceremony.

Before the ceremony, students and parents listened to Texas Aggie Women Basketball coach Gary Blair during a special Thursday night convocation at Rudder Theater, where he had words of inspiration for the graduating class.

“I could not be more proud of our students,” said Dr. Jeff Tomberlin. “I cannot wait to see where their careers will take them.

Join us in congratulating our Summer 2012 FIVS graduates.  Check back with us now and then as we report on their future accomplishments.  Gig ‘em FIVS Aggies!

Bryce G. Dorwart Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Daniel Joseph Kelly Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis

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.”

 

Forensics Students Receive Forensic Technician Certificates

Texas A&M students who earned the Forensic Technician certificate were (pictured l-r):  Alex Weghorst, Kortney Parchman, Madison Gaytan, Alyssa Laymance, and Lindsey Thompson. Photo by Rob Williams.

Texas A&M students who earned the Forensic Technician certificate were (pictured l-r): Alex Weghorst, Kortney Parchman, Madison Gaytan, Alyssa Laymance, and Lindsey Thompson. Photo by Rob Williams.

Five students are now official Forensic Technicians as they completed the Texas Forensic Science Academy’s latent fingerprint class this May.

Students Alex Weghorst, Kortney Parchman, Madison Gaytan, Alyssa Laymance and Lindsey Thompson received their certifications after completing workshops in latent print processing and crime scene investigation techniques.

The course, which was led by TFSA Coordinator Christine Ramirez, is cross-listed in the Texas A&M catalog as FIVS422 under the Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program, and students earn 2 semester hours of college credit. To earn the Forensic Technician certificate, students must complete the 40-hour Crime Scene Investigation and 40- hour Latent Print Processing courses.

The two courses provide participants with information, techniques, and methodologies for conducting crime scene investigations and processing crime scene evidence. Completion of this certification is equivalent to completion of the FSA106 – Crime Scene Investigation and FSA104 – Latent Print Processing courses.

Alex Weghorst setting up a camera to photograph a print. Photo by Rob Williams.

Alex Weghorst setting up a camera to photograph a print. Photo by Rob Williams.

Offered through the Texas Forensic Science Academy, the certification program offers science-based, application-intensive, forensic training designed for law enforcement professionals and non-commissioned personnel responsible for crime scene investigations.

Topics covered include crime scene searches, scene documentation, handling evidence, latent print processing and print processing from blood, as well as with conventional and fluorescent powders.

The training is part of the Texas Forensic Science Academy, a collaboration between Texas A&M’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program and TEEX as a way of training law enforcement professionals and non-commissioned personnel responsible for either processing and investigating crime scenes or handling evidence used in preparing criminal cases.

Students learned different basic techniques for processing latent fingerprints and enhancing visible prints from crime scenes. They also received instruction in taking and processing prints from physical evidence collected from the scene.

“Both courses were great,” Parchman said. “The latent print course was great and was more hands-on.”

“The students did very well,” Ramirez said. “They are a very enthusiastic and motivated group and doing very exceptional work.”

Senior forensics major Lauren Garmley loved that the course was hands-on and learning about working with latent fingerprints.

“It’s a great opportunity to explore my future career options,” she said.

Senior Jennifer Rhinesmith said the fingerprint course, as well as being certified would be a plus in helping to find a career. “The best thing about this course is the hands-on experience,” she said. “Christine’s experience has been very valuable.”

Rhinesmith plans on taking the Crime Scene Investigation course that will be offered in January 2013.

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences degree program at Texas A&M prepares students for careers that involve the collection, preservation, processing and use of evidence and information to solve problems. These careers include law, medicine, homeland security, public safety, political science, environmental quality, agriculture, public health, chemistry, anthropology, physics, computer science and business.

The Department of Entomology enjoys its partnership with TEEX’s Texas Forensic Science Academy. This partnership between faculty and students of TAMU’s Forensic and Investigative Sciences program and experts from TEEX’s Forensic Science Academy will strengthen the curriculum at Texas A&M and offer students an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technologies and current field methods.

 

Forensics Students Part of Record Number of TAMU Graduates for Spring 2012

Spring 2012 Forensics Graduates
Spring 2012 Forensics Graduates

Graduating students getting ready for commencement at Reed Arena. From left to right, Kelsey Adams, Catherine White, Nathanael Butcher, Reginald Nubine, Adriana Guerra, Alyssa Laymance, Amber Kendrick, and Thomas O’Connor

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences (FIVS) Program and the Department of Entomology congratulate all of our students that received their degrees on Friday, May 11.

This May, nine students were part of the more than 7,000 Texas A&M University students that received their diplomas during the Friday morning commencement service.

Students and families were treated to a special pre-commencement breakfast celebrating their achievements in the fourth floor atrium early in the morning, as well as listened to Chancellor John Sharp speak during a special Thursday evening convocation at Rudder Auditorium.

Forensics student Catherine White was excited about graduating this spring and was ready to be commissioned into the Army. David White also expressed his excitement for his daughter

“I am thrilled,” White said. “She has done well and we look forward to the next step.”

“I could not be more proud of our students,” said Dr. Jeff Tomberlin.  “I cannot wait to see where their careers take them as I know they will all be successful.”

Join us in congratulating our Spring 2012 FIVS graduates.  Check back with us now and then as we report on their future accomplishments.  Gig ‘em FIVS Aggies!

Kelsey Adams Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Ileene Berrios Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Nathanael Buchner Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Adriana Estela Guerra Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Amber Kendrick Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Thomas O”Connor Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis
Alyssa Robin Laymance Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis
Reginald Nubine Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Law Emphasis and Psychology
Catherine White Forensic and Investigative Sciences – Science Emphasis

Forensics Student Receives 2012 COALS Senior Merit Award

Ileene Berrios
Ileene Berrios

Ileene Berrios, center, received the 2012 Senior Merit Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Standing with Berrios is Dr. Mark Hussey, Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences, left, and Dr. Alan Sams, Executive Associate Dean. Photo by TAMU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences program would like to congratulate Ileene Berrios on receiving the 2012 Senior Merit Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The awards were handed out during the College’s annual Spring Awards Convocation recognition ceremony held in the AgriLife Center on March 31.

Berrios is a senior Forensic and Investigative Sciences major and is a member of the Corps of Cadets and has served as a Ross Volunteer, 1st BDE Sergeant Major and 1st BDE Commander.

In July 2011, Berrios also was involved in the Forensics and Biometrics Internship at the National Forensic Science Technology Center in Largo, Fla. The internship allows students in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) to learn how to use forensic science in the battlefield setting.

She has been honored as a member of the General O.R. Simpson Honor Society and has been named on the Dean’s and Corps of Cadets’ Honor Rolls several times. She also has served in the community by volunteering at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Physical Therapy Clinic and at the Beutel Physical Therapy Clinic.

Berrios is the second student in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program since its inception that has received the award, which is the highest honor given to undergraduates in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

To be eligible, students must be projected to graduate during the 2012 calendar year.

Berrios is expected to graduate in May 2012.

Texas A&M Forensics Program Receives National Accreditation

Alex Weghorst (left) lays a marker while Charity Owings takes a photo during a mock crime scene investigation for the Crime Scene Investigation course held by the TEEX’s Texas Forensic Science Academy in January.

The Forensic and Investigative Sciences program celebrated a milestone in its five-year history as the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences announced full accreditation of the program for five years on February 18.

“To get to this point so quickly required vast foresight, persistence, and coordination by many administrators, faculty, staff, and students,” stated Dr. Kevin M. Heinz, Director of the FIVS Program.  In the academic years immediately preceding the summer of 2006, Entomology majors within Forensic Entomology Track within the undergraduate Entomology degree program made known their desires to have an independent degree in forensics.  After careful study, the Department of Entomology faculty voted to proceed with creation of a new undergraduate degree program in Forensic and Investigative Sciences.

Dr. Jeff Tomberlin demonstrating blunt force trauma during an Introduction to Forensic & Investigative Sciences class

“Texas A&M University did not have Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board authority to offer such a degree when we first started.  The University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Department of Entomology (home to the FIVS degree) had to work in perfect unison starting from square one,” said Heinz.

In little more than a year from conception, the FIVS degree program received approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in August 2007 following approvals at all levels of Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M University Board of Regents.  The first class within the new degree was taught to 69 new students in Fall 2007.

What makes the Texas A&M University FIVS degree somewhat unique is its focus on the scientific foundations of discipline while at the same time providing a number of opportunities for students blend scientific knowledge with the practice of forensic science.  Collaborations with one Texas A&M University System partner, “the Texas Engineering Extension Service Forensic Science Academy, as well as those with local, state, and federal agencies provide FIVS students opportunities to work side-by-side with practicing forensic professionals.  All of these elements, together with and assessment of the number and quality of faculty, administrative support, and student placement are components evaluated during the accreditation process.

Sarah Bahlmann (left) and Bailey Harrington (right) work the Forensics table at 2011 Aggieland Saturday.

“Students graduating from an accredited program have an added assurance their education will assist them in establishing a career in forensic sciences by meeting the high requirements demanded by employers.  More employers are looking to FEPAC programs as the gold standard for forensic science education as they know students from these programs will have received education in all necessary science courses.  Graduates of the FIVS program will be the main benefactors of the FEPAC accreditation,” said Heinz.

Professor Dr. Jeff Tomberlin said having the certification is a great promotion tool to employers and prospective students.

“Receiving this certification represents a historic moment for the Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program at Texas A&M University. Our students can now rest assured that our program meets national standards,” Tomberlin said.  “I am very thankful for the hard work by the administration, faculty, and staff associated with this degree. And, I am sure the future of our program will continue to be bright due to such continued efforts.”

Dr. David Ragsdale, department of entomology head, said the accreditation should benefit students beginning with May 2012 graduates.

“We want to celebrate the accomplishment of accreditation as it is truly something the students, staff, faculty and administration should be proud of,” Ragsdale said.