New booths showcased at Forensic Science Day

Story and photos by Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

There were fingerprints, there was blood (fake, of course) and there was a crime scene at Tuesday’s annual Forensic Science Day fair at Grand Canyon University. But there also was a new area for the visiting high school students to explore -- bite marks.

Sonia Molina explains the study of forensic odontology to high school students.

The forensic odontology booth debuted at the event along with various fingerprinting and impression evidence booths, all of which displayed more ways to identify suspects. The students were asked to bite into a piece of Laffy Taffy and were shown the differences in each person’s bite mark.

While manning the odontology booth, Chris Newman and Sonia Molina were able to catch the attention of students with their knowledge and information.

Molina developed her passion from years of watching television shows such as "Criminal Minds" and "CSI." She also was able to show the students examples of bite marks working in some cases and not working in others.

“I personally actually chose to come to this school (GCU) off of Forensic Science Day, and I chose to do forensic science off of Forensic Science Day, so it’s really cool that I actually get to be behind the booth to teach the kids,” Newman said. “The kids that we talked to, they thought it was really cool.”

High school students Emilie Elliott, Peter Van Den Akker and Sarah Anderson were just a few that were drawn to the booth.

“They were showing us how we can analyze the teeth,” Elliott said. “I thought that was really cool because it helps, like a lot, because the way teeth are shaped. Everybody’s just different.”

Van Den Akker, an aspiring police officer, found the booth helpful but also enjoyed the free Laffy Taffy.

High school students (left) Sarah Anderson and Emilie Elliot spent their Tuesday morning learning about forensic science.

“There’s a lot of things you haven’t seen before, that’s not very publicly known,” he said.

Another popular booth at the event was the mock crime scene investigation. Students were shown a mock crime scene and were encouraged to work together to figure out what happened.

“Basically, what we did is we created a certain crime that happened, and basically it’s just trying to let them see the different evidence and see if they can gather what happened at the scene,” said Janae Battles, who was working the booth. “It’s also great because they can have a team … which is also very important in our field.”

The scene may not have been the simplest to solve and required more than a mere glance, but senior Seaura Merritt was impressed with the feedback they were getting from students.

“They’ve given really good answers on how to test for the scene,” Said Merritt.

Since the event was a capstone event for forensic science students, it was a chance for seniors in the Forensic Science Department to share what they have learned.

“They’ve been working on it since about the beginning of the semester,” said Melissa Beddow, Director of the forensic science program. “They choose the activity and then decide what they are going to need, and they get it approved through us.”

Newman said, “It’s really cool because we get to actually take what we’ve learned in the past couple of years, throughout physical evidence and crime scene and all the classes that we’ve taken in forensics, and we’re actually applying it and teaching new kids that are coming in.”

Students from multiple high schools stopped by the mock crime scene to see if they could solve the case.

After the forensic booths, students were able to watch a live police dog demo, meet Phoenix Police Department's Special Assignment Unit (SAU) and hear from a number of guest speakers who are in the field. Two of the speakers who happen to be alumni of GCU have been able to witness the changes in the event over the years.

“It’s cool stuff,” Krystin Lemieux said. “It’s nice to see the real versus the television. They all come in and that’s usually their only experience is television.”

Lemieux is a former forensic technician and is currently an adjunct professor at GCU. She has watched the Forensic Science Department and the fair continue to grow.

“I was in the first Forensic Science Day,” said Lemieux. “It’s completely changed. Different courses are available, the course walk itself has changed several times and just knowing how things are going to work, because it’s been done.”

Aimee Prusick also noticed the progress the program has made since her graduation from GCU in 2014.

“I just learned that they have a Forensic Science Club and they also offer crime scene photography,” Prusick said. “They didn’t have any of that when I was here.”

Students got to experience a live police dog demo.

Prusick is a medicolegal death investigator for Maricopa County and was given the opportunity to speak to the high school students about her job and give advice to aspiring forensic scientists.

“I think it’s great,” Prusick said of the opportunity. “... I think the more community outreach (there is), people will understand what we do more and why our job is so important.”

The day concluded with a bite, too -- students got to have lunch on campus.

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]


Related content:

GCU Today: Investigation confirms popularity of forensic science

GCU Today: Evidence shows Forensic Science Day again is a hit


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