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High schoolers get facts of forensic science at CS...

High schoolers get facts of forensic science at CSI:MTSU [+VIDEO]

They came to MTSU from high schools in four different states to learn more about forensic science in a hands-on environment.

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Within the first hour of the eighth annual CSI: MTSU summer camp, the 36 young participants found themselves in the shoes of the professionals at an alarming crime scene: A teenager was missing from her family’s home, where even a casual observer could see foul play, in a scenario straight from the headlines.

The campers:

  • studied blood, fingerprint, hair, fiber and ballistics samples in a laboratory;
  • obtained witness statements from investigators;
  • hashed out ideas with their colleagues in a conference room; and
  • presented their conclusions to a trio of “judges,” as well as a roomful of parents, friends and supporters on the final day — all in hopes of resolving a crime and finding justice.

“We had two dead ends on this that they had to figure out,” said Dr. Hugh Berryman, director of MTSU’s Forensic Institute for Research and Education, explaining how the groups narrowed down their kidnapping suspects with phone calls, emails, purchase receipts and more.

MTSU senior forensic anthropology majors Justin Lowe of Christiana, Tennessee, left, and Blakely Hunze of Mt. Juliet share their expertise on fingerprint identification with two of this summer's CSI:MTSU campers in a lab in the university's Science Building. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

MTSU senior forensic anthropology majors Justin Lowe of Christiana, Tennessee, left, and Blakely Hunze of Mt. Juliet share their expertise on fingerprint identification with two of this summer’s CSI:MTSU campers in a lab in the university’s Science Building. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

“The first group to ‘save’ our victim, ‘Cindy Parker’ … figured out where she was in less than two hours on the first day,” Berryman said, “and that was excellent work. It scared me. I tried not to show it, but I was thinking, ‘oh NO, this whole camp’s gonna come apart two hours into the first day; they’ve already figured it all out.’”

The campers accomplished their discoveries with the help of MTSU forensic anthropology students who coordinated group activities, answered questions and taught integral facets of the camp, such as laboratory evidence analysis.

On the final day, Berryman singled out MTSU students who played a significant role in this year’s CSI camp: Cori Crenshaw, Matt Davis, Cody Evans, Erin Floyd, Blakely Hunze, Amber Lancaster, Jeffrey LaPorte, Daniel Locke, Justin Lowe, Sophie Plant-Moran, Lauren Smith and Charlotte Whitaker.

They’re also members of the university’s Forensic Anthropology Search and Recovery, or FASR, Team, which helps law enforcement agencies and medical examiners cross Tennessee recover and document skeletal remains at crime scenes.

FIRE logoThe undergraduate and graduate students are tops in their field with experience in human osteology, forensic anthropology and archaeological field work. Many of the student anthropologists got their start the same way the young visitors did: at a CSI:MTSU camp.

“I don’t think you’ll find another university that has undergrad and grad students who work actual crime scenes with a professor like me,” said Berryman, a longtime professor in MTSU’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a nationally recognized forensic anthropologist.

“Many times me and my crews are on the inside of the yellow tape and the authorities are on the other. It’s very serious. Any student who goes on these crime scenes with me are subject to subpoena and to testify in court. It’s the real deal, and I’m really proud of these students.”

You can watch a brief video about this year’s CSI:MTSU Camp below. A Facebook photo album of the 2015 campers and their activities also is available here.

Along with CSI:MTSU camps, the Forensic Institute for Research and Education, established in 2006, offers free public lectures featuring renowned forensic-science experts each semester. FIRE also provides regular educational and training opportunities for law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, attorneys, social workers and other groups in forensic science and homeland security.

To learn more about other FIRE programs and events, contact the FIRE offices at 615-494-7713 at fire@mtsu.edu or visit www.mtsu.edu/fire. You can get more details about the CSI:MTSU camps at www.csimtsu.com.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

CSI:MTSU campers peek inside the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime Response Team’s crime-scene vehicle while special agents explain how it operates during this summer's event.

CSI:MTSU campers peek inside the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime Response Team’s crime-scene vehicle while special agents explain how it operates during this summer’s event.

Mitzi Dunkley, left, and Dr. Hugh Berryman, assistant director and director, respectively, of MTSU's Forensic Institute for Research and Education, look over the judges' tallies for the top presentations at this summer's CSI:MTSU camp.

Mitzi Dunkley, left, and Dr. Hugh Berryman, assistant director and director, respectively, of MTSU’s Forensic Institute for Research and Education, look over the judges’ tallies for the top presentations at this summer’s CSI:MTSU camp.


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