In summer 2017, CSAFE’s leading experts in statistics and forensics joined together to advance the education of emerging scientists through novel research experiences.

Two CSAFE intuitions, Iowa State University and Carnegie Mellon University, held a research experience for undergraduates internship program (REU) for undergraduate students from around the country. 16 students from 7 institutions to include Iowa State University, University of Iowa, Upper Iowa University, Nebraska Wesleyan University, as well as the three CSAFE minority serving partner institutions (Eastern New Mexico University, Albany State University, and Fayetteville State University) participated in the program.

Students were interested in exploring CSAFE’s leading role in statistical foundations in forensic science. Biology and criminal justice student James Kruse said, “I knew that a working knowledge of statistics is an important part of being a good criminalist and believed that this internship would build upon what I had done in my statistics classes.”

REU students worked toward achieving CSAFE’s core mission of building a statistically sound and scientifically solid foundation for the analysis and interpretation of forensic evidence through active participation in evidence collection and data analysis.  Students also improved professional communication skills through regular presentations of their research results.

Undergraduate interns interacted with CSAFE faculty, post-doctoral researchers, graduate students and industry members to increase their understanding of how statistical models can be used to solve key challenges in forensic evidence analysis.

Kruse said, “I was shocked to find out that there wasn’t more statistical backing in this field. I learned how to look at statistics differently and use it as a powerful tool when looking at forensic data. For example, Hu moments. The idea that you can use statistical summaries of images and then, possibly, use them to solve a case is fascinating.”

Key Highlights from Each Institution-

ISU:

  • Training workshops on statistical foundations of forensic science research
  • Hands-on research in fields such as shoeprint analysis, bullet matching, and stegoanalysis
  • Weekly student research presentations
  • Participation in university wide professional development educational sessions
  • Visit to the State of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Laboratory
  • Capstone poster presentation at university wide research symposium

CMU:

  • Lectures focused on introduction to statistics, probability, R, experimental design, as well as linear and logistic regression.
  • Participation in a forensics statistics discussion seminar on different topics related to statistics, probability and the law.
  • Hands-on research focused on fingerprints, handwriting and digital forensics.
  • Weekly student progress reports
  • Special events including tours of the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office and Google, as well as additional social activities

Kruse encourages students to grow as scientists by partnering with CSAFE. “Working with CSAFE was a great opportunity and I am glad that I was chosen as a 2017 REU intern. It is one thing to sit in a class and learn about forensic evidence and statistics, but there is something to be said for working on a project that applies these things,” Kruse said. “The staff that worked with us was patient and always willing to help us. They let us make mistakes and learn how to solve problems using new materials.”

The CSAFE REU program was an intentional effort to fulfill the center’s commitment to educating the next generation of forensic scientists. More information about CSAFE educational opportunities can be found on our website.