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Monday, March 25, 2013 BGSU
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Forensics specializations broaden options

Students (left to right) Natalie Coulianos, Yuanjiao Wang and James Kaganjo at work in Dr. Jill Zeilstra-Ryalls' molecular biology laboratory

The announcement by the state last spring that it would build a Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation crime lab on campus prompted the creation of a new focus area at the University. Starting next fall, the departments of criminal justice, chemistry and biology will offer undergraduate specializations in forensic sciences.

"As soon as the president and the attorney general made the announcement about the building, my phone started ringing off the hook," remembers Dr. Steven Lab, chair of the criminal justice department.

With interest in forensics already piqued by popular television shows such as "CSI," the new specializations fit perfectly with students' desires, Lab said. BGSU will join the very small number of colleges nationally with on-campus crime labs. Having access to personnel from a state-of-the-art crime lab will provide students opportunities for learning through internships and guest lectures. That interaction will help prepare them for careers in public safety and the growing field of forensic sciences.

Dr. Michael Buerger is developing the introductory forensics investigation course for criminal justice. The department is also planning a course on legal aspects of forensic investigations, which will be open to forensics students in chemistry and biology as well, Lab said.

Because these are undergraduate specializations, many of the basic courses are already in place. In a process that is expected to take about two years, the departments are creating additional courses tailored to forensic sciences.

Biology will develop a new class: Molecular Biology Techniques Laboratory to train both forensic students and molecular biology students in molecular techniques used in forensics labs (and elsewhere).  “We hope to have it running next spring,” said department chair Dr. Jeffrey Miner, adding that the University will then be among a limited number of schools offering such a class.

The molecular lab classes will be small, and students will work closely with Dr. Scott Rogers, who has experience in the discipline.

“Science is driven by technique,” Miner said. “You have to be able to do high-end work to get a job in the molecular biology and forensic science area. I think every undergraduate student in molecular biology and forensics, including some graduate students, will want to take this course.”

The biological sciences department will also be able to adapt many of the existing foundational classes, such as genetics, evolution and medical entomology, to include a forensic aspect, Miner said.

“I had long thought forensics would be a natural extension of analytical chemistry,” said Dr. John Cable, chemistry department chair. “That’s where the overlap lies. Analytical chemists basically ask ‘What is this substance and how much of it is present?’ Linking this with forensic science means applying the standard techniques to samples relevant to forensic investigations.”

Looking for the presence of and identifying drugs would be a primary example. Analytical chemists utilize such methods as mass spectrometry and gas chromatography to study samples, and the chemistry department will train forensics specialist students in applying these to investigations, Cable said.

In designing the forensic chemistry course, he and Dr. Stephania Messersmith worked with the assistant laboratory director and laboratory supervisor at the current BCI lab in Bowling Green.

Michael Schuessler, Design and Construction, is project manager for the BCI facility, which is set to break ground in the fall and be operational in fall 2014.

“There is a tremendous realm of possibilities with forensics, from accounting to anthropology and psychology,” Lab said. “We have to now build capacity to take advantage of them.”

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Consul-general to share benefits of learning Japanese

Kuninori Matsuda, Consul General of Japan, will visit campus today (March 25) to explain the importance to Ohioans of learning Japanese. His talk begins at 4 p.m. in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater and is open to all.

He will explore the benefits of being proficient in the Japanese language within the modern-day global context as well as the range of opportunities for Japanese language speakers in Ohio.

Northwest Ohio is home to many Japanese companies, noted Asian Studies Director Akiko Jones, and the consul-general has been instrumental in connecting BGSU with them.

“He has helped provide opportunities not only for Japanese students but for business students as well,” she said.

A frequent visitor to Bowling Green for the annual Ohanami cherry blossom festival and the yearly meeting of Japanese businessmen, Matsuda is “just a great speaker,” Jones said. “I really encourage everyone to attend.”

The consul-general's visit is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences.

Masekela, Gordon bring their talents to campus

Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela

Legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and his band will close out the Festival Series on April 3. This week, National Book Award-winning author Jaimy Gordon will give a campus reading. Get details In Brief.

Zoom News is provided as a service to BGSU faculty and staff.

March 25, 2013