A crime scene was staged on the campus of Howard Payne University last week as part of the new Introductory Forensic Science course taught by Dr. Derek Smith, assistant professor of physical science.
Students in the course are learning about aspects of digital photography that are employed in conjunction with the disciplines of securing, searching and documenting a crime scene. They took pictures recently of several objects found in the bushes behind the Winebrenner Memorial Hall of Science, as well as a muddy footprint and handprint in their laboratory.
This is the first in a four-course sequence that Smith is teaching as part of the new forensic science major in the department of physical science.
Smith said his goal is to teach students about the many scientific specializations that are recognized in the field of forensic science. Smith also wants to be very intentional about teaching information that is directly applicable to the future career goals of the students.
Crime scene investigation shows have peaked the curiosity of many into the field of forensic science, but they are not an accurate representation of the work. “It is a glamorous depiction that only has a minimal representation of what occurs before the cameras are turned on,” Smith said.
Smith worked with Lynn Humeniuk, chair of the department of criminal justice, and Dr. Pamela Bryant, head of the department of physical sciences, to develop the new major which appeals to students in both physical science and criminal justice fields.
“As a criminal justice major, I will probably come in contact with a crime scene in the future, so it pays to be aware of the procedures and possibilities ahead of time in order to make myself more marketable in the future,” HPU senior Andrew Stallsworth, a student in the new class, said.
Throughout the semester, the introductory course will look at fingerprint studies, classifying hair samples, comparing fibers, shoe and tool print analysis, glass densities and ink samples. All of the laboratory experiments will be done through the use of equipment that has been newly procured through the physical science department.
“This will be a very rigorous and challenging program,” Smith said, “but students who complete the degree requirements will be equipped to work in any crime laboratory.”