Students get hands-on at forensic science workshop

Group of students at forensic science workshop

FIU forensic science graduate students recently got acquainted with a variety of specialties in the field at a week-long workshop showcasing interdisciplinary collaborations among professionals.

The students learned about the challenges of identification in forensic anthropology. Using four real human skeletons, on loan from the Department of Applied Forensic Sciences at Mercyhurst University, they worked through the complexity of missing persons investigations. They practiced genetic identification by extracting DNA from teeth and analyzed its genetic profile.

Experts like Dr. DeEtta Mills, Director of the International Forensic Research Institute and Deputy Director of the Global Forensic and Justice Center, showed them the importance and applications of non-human DNA at crime scenes and other scenarios, like wildlife forensics.

Working with Dr. Anamary Tarifa, students also practiced the detection of drugs in alcoholic drinks at the Forensic and Analytical Toxicology Facility. Dr. Joe Adserias-Garriga, an expert from Texas State University, explained how bacteria can help estimate time-since-death. Students got the chance to analyze real date from decomposition scenarios.

The week ended with Dr. Josep De Alcaraz-Fossoul, an assistant professor from University of New Haven, who discussed fingerprint identification and the potential issues that arise. Analyzing their own fingerprints, students performed related practical exercises.

The annual summer workshop is part of the Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Science (PSM-FS). The program was recently featured as one of the best online Master of Science in Forensic Science programs for 2019 and the best in real-world experience. Each year, PSM-FS Director Dr. Sara C. Zapico – a forensic anthropologist and board-certified criminalist – brings experts from across the field to promote out-of-the box thinking.

Sara C. Zapico contributed to this article.