Forensic Science News: 2013-14

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May 9, 2014 - Forensic Science Celebrates May Graduates

UNL Forensic Science - May Grads 2014On Friday, May 9th the Departments of Entomology and Applied Science invited Forensic Science graduates and their families to participate in the joint graduation reception held prior to the CASNR Salute to Graduates reception.

The following Forensic Science students were honored (in order left to right): Nathaniel Niosco, Lindsey Coe, Emily Spack and Annie Larsen.  Due to the rigor of the program, graduating with a degree in Forensic Science at the University of Nebraska is quite an achievement and these students deserve congratulations!

April, 2014 - Forensic Science Capstone Course Includes Collaboration with Law College

UNL Forensic Science - CapstoneThe Forensic Science Program at UNL is partnering with the Law College to bring a realistic culmination to students’ undergraduate experience.  Forensic Science majors taking the capstone course Current Issues in Forensic Science (FORS 485) collect and analyze evidence from a mock crime scene and testify as expert witnesses in a mock trial hosted by the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Leading this project are faculty members Ashley Hall, Larry Barksdale and Steve Schmidt.

This experience has recently been covered by UNL Today and the full story can be viewed here.

April 16, 2014 - Hohnstein Discusses Accident Reconstruction with Forensic Science Students

UNL Forensic Science - Marlan HohnsteinAs part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Investigator Marlan Hohnstein, a crash scene reconstructionist and State Deputy Sherriff for the Department of Motor Vehicles, came to discuss the process of accident reconstruction.

Inv. Hohnstein indicated that reconstructionists use analyses of physical evidence found at the scene to make inferences and to test various theories about what happened to determine how events occurred.  Hohnstein described how the process involves a walk-through of the scene, extensive photography, the collection of transitory evidence, detailed examinations, sketches and measurements as well as interviews with witnesses to reconstruct what happened.

Hohnstein also discussed his work with the DMV fraud unit and showed how they use biometrics and technology to do facial recognition searches from driver’s license photos to compare physical features to identify fraudulence.  More…

April 13, 2014 - Forensic Science Standouts Recognized at CASNR Awards

UNL Forensic Science - Ashley HallUNL Forensic Science - Kate SchwenkeUNL Forensic Science - Ben Heinisch

Outstanding students, clubs, faculty and staff in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) were recognized last Sunday at the CASNR Week Awards Banquet.  Several representatives from UNL’s Forensic Science Program were honored including:

-Ben Heinisch, a forensic science and biochemistry academic advisor nominated for the Superior Academic Advising Award

-Katherine Schwenke, a forensic science and biochemistry double-major, was the recipient of the Outstanding Club Member Award for her work with the Forensic Science Club

-Dr. Ashley Hall, Assistant Professor of Forensic Science and Forensic Biochemistry Option Coordinator was the recipient of the CASNR Week Outstanding Teacher Award in addition to her previous selection as the Alpha Zeta Teacher of the Month for February and winner of the Junior Faculty Holling Family Award for Teaching Excellence this spring.

Congratulations to all for their outstanding contributions to the Forensic Science Program and CASNR!

April 9, 2014 - Forensic Odontologist Presents on DMORT and Forensic Dentistry

UNL Forensic Science - John Filippi

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Dr. John Filippi, a Dentist, Forensic Odontologist and member of DMORT, came to engage students and educate them on the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) that he was worked with since 1981.

Filippi explained that DMORT is a federal team of subject-matter experts called in at mass disasters and is one type of team sponsored by the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS).  There are 10 regional teams and Filippi represents region 7 (Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa).  The teams are made up of several experts including but not limited to: medical examiners, forensic pathologists, forensic anthropologists, fingerprint specialists, odontologists and funeral directors.

Dr. Filippi indicated how identifications are made through comparisons of antemortem records (dental, fingerprint, etc.) and postmortem remains and noted how important it is that the different forensic sciences interact well with each other to help develop multiple points of concordance for the identification.  More…

April 2, 2014 - Forensic Science Club hosts LPD Lab Manager

UNL Forensic Science - Erin Sims

UNL’s Forensic Science Club hosted Erin Sims, the lab manager for the Lincoln Police Department who discussed many aspects of her work in the LPD Forensic Identification Unit.  Sims showed pictures and described the work done with their AFIS workstation, fingerprint processing room, wet lab, mug and print room, photography lab, evidence processing lab, video analysis lab and fingerprint files.

Sims also identified the number of civilian and commissioned officer CSI’s in the state and described the processes and fingerprint match statistics for each of the four Nebraska crime labs.  She also described her work on several cases including the analysis of footwear patterns and bloodstains as evidence.

Sims indicated that crime labs are looking for individuals trained in latent fingerprint comparisons because much of their work includes analyzing fingerprints.  She also indicated that video surveillance analysis has increased with the higher levels of monitoring in businesses.  More…

March 19, 2014 - Forensic Pathologist Speaks to Forensic Science Students

UNL Forensic Science - Robert Bowen

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Dr. Robert Bowen, a Board-Certified Forensic Pathologist with Physician’s Laboratory Services and adjunct faculty member for UNL’s Forensic Science Program, came to discuss issues of forensic pathology.

Bowen indicated that in Nebraska, a coroners system is used where a coroner is an elected official (County Attorney) who then appoints a professional to perform that county’s autopsies.  Dr. Bowen’s lab processed over 700 autopsies last year alone.

 Dr. Bowen pointed out that his main objective is to look at every aspect of the body and collect as much data as possible to develop a story of what happened and compare that story with the facts surrounding the case.  He indicated his goals include: determining time and cause of death, identifing the body, finding evidence and identifing any postmortem effects. 

Bowen also discussed various causes of death and their common identifying features as well as other contextual evidence required to make that determination.  More…

March 12, 2014 - Emergency Management Comes to Discuss Homeland Security

UNL Forensic Science - Doug Ahlberg

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Doug Ahlberg, Director of Emergency Management for Lancaster County and retired Captain of the Lincoln Police Department, came to discuss emergency management at the local, state and federal level.

Ahlberg indicated that each county or region has an emergency manager in charge of organizing and keeping track of various preparedness, response and recovery efforts at the local level.  Ahlberg noted that every national event is a local event first and went on to discuss how his office is a conduit to working with Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Ahlberg shared handouts and information with our students about how they can be prepared and discussed job opportunities in this area with the local, state and federal government.  More…

March 5, 2014 - The FBI Comes to UNL to Talk Jobs and Forensic Science

UNL Forensic Science - FBI

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Michele Stevenson, a Special Agent with the FBI Omaha Division, shared information about careers in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As the Applicant Coordinator and Recruiter for the Omaha Division, Stevenson highlighted several opportunities for students and graduates including paid and unpaid internships, careers as professional staff and as special agents.  She indicated that college graduates with degrees in math and science are very highly sought after for their problem-solving skill development.

Stevenson gave the students tips on the application process and noted particular areas of interest for forensically-minded graduates: the lab in Quantico which houses 750 employees doing a range of 50 different jobs, and the Evidence Response Team, an ancillary duty that would be a good fit for forensic science graduates.  She indicated two websites for more information about federal jobs: https://www.usajobs.gov/ and https://www.fbijobs.gov/.

February 19, 2014 - Lincoln Attorney to Discuss DNA Evidence with Forensic Science Students

UNL Forensic Science - DNA

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Jerry Soucie, a Lincoln-area Attorney, came to discuss the importance and use of DNA evidence in the court of law.

Since 1999, when use of DNA evidence became more prevalent in criminal cases, Soucie has taken it upon himself to become educated in and stay up with developments in DNA analysis techniques and technologies.  As a defense attorney, it has become imperative to know the ins and outs of this evidence.  Soucie mentioned that at this point, the science of DNA is solid and lawyers should not go after the credibility of DNA.  He believes that forensics experts now raise the credibility of the evidence with their testimony.

One concern Soucie indicated was that DNA evidence can be almost too accurate and sensitive.  Currently, it doesn’t take much DNA to get a profile and secondary transfers (shaking hands, air handlers, etc.) can contaminate the evidence and therefore require more secure analysis processes.

February 14, 2014 - Forensic Science Professor Ashley Hall Wins Holling Award

UNL Forensic Science - Ashley Hall

Ashley Hall, Assistant Professor of Forensic Science and Forensic Biochemistry Option Coordinator for UNL’s Forensic Science Program has been awarded the Junior Faculty Holling Family Award for Teaching Excellence for the year of 2014. 

The purpose of this award is to promote the high level of teaching excellence in the Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources.  Dr. Hall teaches several courses including, Introduction to Forensic Science, Forensic Science Seminar, Forensic Biochemistry, Forensic Y-STR Analysis, Forensic DNA Analysis, and Current Issues in Forensic Science.  Congratulations Dr. Hall!

February, 2014 - Heng-Moss to be Keynote Speaker at Women in Science Conference

UNL Forensic Science - Tiffany Heng-Moss

Tiffany Heng-Moss, Professor of Entomology and courtesy affiliate with UNL’s Forensic Science Program, will be discussing important female scientists in a variety of science careers throughout history as the keynote speaker for the Women in Science Conference February 21st.

This conference, sponsored by the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and UNL’s Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education will host students from Nebraska and Kansas and will focus on the work and impact of female scientists in the areas of biochemistry, biological sciences, biotechnology, food science, agronomy, horticulture, plant science and plant pathology.

February 12, 2014 - Noordhoek and Peterson Discuss Corrections Investigation

UNL Forensic Science - Nebraska Corrections

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, two individuals from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services: Benny Noordhoek, Criminal Investigator, and Jeff Peterson, Intel Coordinator/Analyst, came to discuss  investigations and data mining in the prison system.

Noordhoek and Peterson described how data is collected on inmates, which can produce a tremendous amount of information for each individual, and explained how ‘data mining’ is collecting and consolidating this data for use in investigations.

There are currently 10 correctional facilities in the state of Nebraska housing 5,000 inmates and many instances of contraband smuggling, assaults and money laundering are investigated within the department of corrections each year.  More…

February 5, 2014 - John Beck Uses K9 Search Dog Jasper to Find Human Remains

UNL Forensic Science - John Beck

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, John Beck, cadaver detection dog trainer and handler, brought his K9 Jasper to discuss using search dogs to find human remains.

Beck and Jasper, a Labrador Retriever trained as a cadaver detection dog, demonstrated how she uses her olfactory senses to ascertain the location of human remains. Beck noted that humans have been using dogs for as long as we can remember because of their superior sense of smell, hearing and eyesight.

Beck claims there are two things a search dog must be trained to do: find a specific scent, and indicate it to the handler.  He has trained Jasper to use aggressive indications like barking and scratching to identify the location of human remains. Beck indicated that Cadaver dogs, unlike many other detector dogs, are usually civilians and their handlers are volunteers. More…

January 29, 2014 - Sgt. Josey Huffman Demonstrates Forensic Science-Related Careers in Army

UNL Forensic Science - Sgt. Josey Huffman

As part of the FORS 200 – Forensic Science Seminar guest lecture series, Josey Huffman, Sergeant First Class in the United States Army, and his colleague Staff Sergeant West, presented a variety of forensic science-related careers available in the U.S. Army.

Sgt. Huffman highlighted the career routes and presented information for the following entry-level positions: Intelligence Analyst, EOD (explosive ordinance detection) Specialist, and Health Care Specialist.  These areas were identified as being particularly well-suited for students interested in forensic science.

Staff Sergeant West pointed out that the military is a good place to start for individuals looking to find careers with Federal Agencies such as the FBI and the CIA.  UNL’s Forensic Science Program has several students involved in ROTC who are planning to continue their forensic careers in a branch of the military.  More…

January 28, 2014 - Forensic Science Club 2014 Officers Elected

UNL Forensic Science - Forensic Science Club

On Tuesday evening, UNL’s Forensic Science Club met to hold its annual Officer Elections.  Student involvement in the club is highly encouraged and inviting new students into leadership positions ensures that the vitality of the organization stays intact.  The resulting list of officers is as follows:

President: Amber Stettnichs
Vice President: Kaitlyn Baumfalk (returning)
Secretary: Lauren Peck
Treasurer: Shelby Knoche
Public Relations Chair: Kate Schwenke (returning)
Merchandising Chair: Justine LaViolette (returning)

January 14, 2014 - Forensic Science Professor is a Recipient of Parents Association Award

UNL Forensic Science - Larry Barksdale

Sgt. Larry Barksdale, a professor in the UNL Forensic Science Degree Program and coordinator of the Crime Scene Investigation Option, was nominated by his students to receive a “Certificate of Recognition for Contribution to Students”. 

This award, given by the UNL Teaching Council and the Parents Association is in its twenty-sixth year of honoring faculty and staff who have made a significant contribution to the lives of students at UNL.  Congratulations Larry!  More...

December 20, 2013 - Forensic Science Celebrates December Graduates

UNL Forensic Science - Dec Grads

On Friday, Dec. 20th the Departments of Entomology and Applied Science invited Forensic Science graduates and their families to participate in the joint graduation reception held prior to the CASNR Salute to Graduates reception.

The following Forensic Science students were honored: Erin Smith (left), Elizabeth Gamero (right), and Julie Chang (not pictured).  Due to the rigor of the program, graduating with a degree in Forensic Science at the University of Nebraska is quite an achievement and these students deserve congratulations!

November 14, 2013 - Visiting Forensic Science Student to Present at ABRCMS

UNL Forensic Science - Tamika Hare

Tamika Hare, an undergraduate student at Delaware State University who worked with Dr. Ashley Hall here at UNL over the summer, has been selected to present her work in Dr. Hall’s lab at the 2013 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).                                          

Tamika was able to study with Dr. Hall after receiving a fellowship from the NIH Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research Awards program and will present her abstract entitled, “Forensic DNA Profiling of Touch DNA Collections” on November 14, 2013 at the ABRCMS conference in Tennessee.  According to Dr. Hall, her work has involved “trace levels of DNA in fingerprints and collection devices”.  Congratulations Tamika!  More…

November 13, 2013 - Forensic Science Courtesy Faculty Wins a National Teaching Award

UNL Forensic Science - Tiffany Heng-Moss

Dr. Tiffany Heng-Moss, a professor of entomology and courtesy faculty member of the Forensic Science Program at UNL, was one of two recipients of the 2013 National Teaching Award for Food and Agriculture Sciences.  The award is given by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and was presented at the 126th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Among many other things, Dr. Heng-Moss teaches Insect Biology, a course taken by many students each semester including Forensic Science majors (CSI Option).  More…

October 29, 2013 - Forensic Science Director Returns from Teaching Assignment in China

UNL Forensic Science - Fred in China

Dr. Fred Baxendale recently returned to UNL after teaching a 3 credit hour Turfgrass Entomology course (MSU - ENT 364) at Sichuan Agricultural University in Ya’an, China. The course, which ran from October 14-25, 2013, is part of a Michigan State University-China joint B.S. degree program in Turfgrass Management.UNL Forensic Science - Fred in China

The program, which was conceptualized in 2002, involves formal agreements written and signed by MSU and four cooperating Chinese Universities -- Beijing Forestry University, Sichuan Agricultural University, Suzhou Polytechnic University, and Northeast Agricultural University. Dr. Baxendale is an Adjunct Professor at MSU and has participated in the program for the past two years.

October 28, 2013 - Forensic Science Students Present for UNL's HSSRA

UNL Forensic Science - Forensic Ambassadors

From 9-11 pm Monday night, the Harper-Schramm-Smith Residence Association and UNL’s Forensic Science Club and Forensic Science Ambassadors teamed up to present an educational activity for freshman students.  The student presenters used interactive stations to educate others on different aspects of forensic science including: blood spatter, entomology, fingerprinting, shoe impressions and forensic photography.

The presenters educated an estimated 75-100 freshman students during the event.  The Forensic Science Program students involved were: Kate Schwenke (Club Officer and Ambassador), Justine La Violette (Club Officer and Ambassador), Nathaniel Niosco (Club Officer), Taylor Friemel (Ambassador) and Ashley Fejfar (Ambassador).

October 1, 2013 - Forensic Science Program Has New Ambassadors

UNL Forensic Science - Forensic Ambassadors

Forensic science is a major many people are interested in, but may not know much about.  That is about to change now that UNL’s Forensic Science Program has brought in 6 students to help spread the word about the major.  The Forensic Science Ambassador program is designed to give current students an opportunity to share their experiences in the major with prospective students interested in forensic science.

The students who have been chosen to represent their major as Ambassadors are: Kate Schwenke (Senior), Aktham Abd Ali (Senior), Samantha Boice (Senior), Justine La Violette (Junior), Taylor Friemel (Junior) and Ashley Fejfar (Sophomore).  So look for these students at the next Forensic Science recruiting event.

September 2013 - Ashley Hall's DNA Research Published

UNL Forensic Science - Ashley Hall

UNL Forensic Science Assistant Professor Ashley Hall has been researching and assessing the nature of DNA damage and the inhibition of polymerase-mediated primer extension, leading to DNA typing failure.  Her article Assessment of DNA damage induced by terrestrial UV irradiation of dried bloodstains: Forensic implications will be published in the January 2014 volume of Forensic Science International: Genetics.

This research aims to better understand the effects of UVA and UVB irradiation on different types of DNA samples and results indicate that UV exposure can damage samples and result in typing failure.  However, Dr. Hall notes that UV light alone may not be the only factor involved in damage to DNA, but heat, light, humidity and microorganism growth can be significant factors as well.

Dr. Hall is the Coordinator of the Forensic Biochemistry Option for the Forensic Science Major at UNL and teaches several forensic biochemistry-related courses in addition to the Forensic Science Intro course and Capstone Experience.  More…

September 7, 2013 - Forensic Science Starts the Year off Right

UNL Forensic Science - picnic

Many people gathered in the backyard of UNL Forensic Science Assistant Professor of Practice Sgt. Larry Barksdale to celebrate the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year.  There was BBQ to be had, rock music to be heard and stories to be swapped by new and old Forensic Science Majors alike. 

Events like the Forensic Science Welcome Back Picnic give students a chance to reconnect after the summer months, mingle with faculty and staff and get to know students new to the program.

This upcoming academic year offers to bring new programs (Under the Microscope Learning Community, Forensic Science Ambassadors), new students, new forensic science research, and continued increase in student involvement to the Forensic Science Program at UNL.  More...

August 29, 2013 - Forensic Science Club has a New Member

UNL Forensic Science - lil red

The Forensic Science Club officers Kate Schwenke and Justine La Violette got a pleasant surprise when they looked up and saw who was signing up for their club on Thursday’s East Campus Welcome Back Fair.  Lil’ Red was standing at their booth with a pen in hand signing the Forensic Science Club Roster.

The high level of interest in forensic science bodes well for the Forensic Science Club, and many new names were added to the club roster during the Welcome Back Fair and Big Red Welcome earlier in the week.  These annual events are crucial to clubs around campus and allow them to showcase their respective clubs’ focus and help them to continue to grow their numbers.

During these events, representatives of the club offered to fingerprint passersby and help them identify unique characteristics in their thumbprint.  The Forensic Science Club as Officers are: Alexandra Berringer, Kaitlyn Baumfalk, Justine La Violette, Kate Schwenke and Nathaniel Niosco.  Any UNL student that is interested may contact Ben Heinisch to be directed on how to join the club.

August 28, 2013 - UNL Adjunct Erin Kimmerle Project Lead on New NIJ Grant

UNL Forensic Science - skull

PRNewswire-USNewswire published an article about the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarding a $423,528 grant to the University of South Florida to aid in the investigation of missing and unidentified children  buried in unmarked graves at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL.

Dr. Erin Kimmerle (Adjunct Assistant Professor of Forensic Science at UNL) has been appointed the project lead.  Dr. Kimmerle has spearheaded several projects already, including the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory at USF and the Tampa Bay Cold Case Project.  The latter involves over 80 unsolved cases undergoing human identification analysis again using new methods such as 3D digitizing, facial reconstructions and isotope sampling.

Dr. Kimmerle’s research specialties are in the areas of international human rights and forensic anthropology.