This summer, four undergraduate students and one high school teacher are participating virtually in the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) summer research experiences programs.
“We are thrilled to have four interns and an educator with us this summer,” said Anthony Greiter, learning and development specialist at CSAFE. “We really struck gold; in the short time they’ve been with us, these individuals have already proven to be an invaluable part of the team, providing input and a fresh approach to a variety of aspects of CSAFE efforts.”
Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)
CSAFE is hosting its first educator from Iowa State University’s RET program. Joe Carey, a math teacher at Ankeny High School, will be learning about different CSAFE research projects and looking for ways to introduce CSAFE concepts to his students. This is Carey’s fourth time participating in the RET at Iowa State.
Carey said he is confident that there will be many applications of statistics that he can take back to his classroom this fall.
“I have found my students respond very well when I’ve had them interact with products of previous RET programs,” Carey said. “Students are very intrigued when I say this is what I did this summer, and they can see the connection between my work and their learning in class.”
Carey said the RET allows him to take on the role of the learner and gives him a different perspective on what his students experience in his classroom. By participating in the program, he said he can introduce students to possible career paths they may not have been aware of.
Carey hopes he can also benefit from the professional development portion of the RET as he had in previous experiences. “We always have great conversations about teaching high school students in STEM fields.”
Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
CSAFE’s REU is a 10-week immersive summer internship program where students discover how statistical and computational concepts apply to CSAFE’s key research areas in pattern or digital evidence. Four undergraduate students were invited to participate in research activities at Iowa State. Guiding the interns this summer are two returning undergraduate mentors, Alexandra Arabio and Seth Pierre.
Caroly Coronado-Vargas is a second-year student in statistics at Iowa State. She decided to participate in CSAFE’s summer research program because it offered all the qualities she was looking for in a summer internship. “I wanted a program that would allow me to grow within my field of study and as an individual,” Coronado-Vargas said. She hopes she will gain a better understanding of the relationship between statistics and forensic science, with the ultimate goal to explore different aspects and areas of statistics.
Annie DiFrank is in her fourth year of a five-year accelerated master’s program in forensic science and law at Duquesne University. She said she joined the CSAFE REU because she has always had a great love for statistics, and this program was the perfect way to integrate that love with her career track. “I hope to not only acquire a better understanding and skills for applying statistical analysis to forensics, but take this knowledge with me back to my university to inform others as well as wherever my degree takes me post-grad,” DiFrank said.
Isabelle Rocco is a senior in chemical science at the University of Michigan. Rocco chose the CSAFE REU because it would allow her to explore her career interest while working with professors and researchers already in the field. She said the hands-on learning and guidance CSAFE offers are a perfect fit to expand her comprehension of evidence analysis because of the reputation of those involved, as well as past undergraduates’ reports. “Forensics has always been an interest of mine, so I hope I can take full advantage of those around me and learn as much as I can from them. I hope to take this knowledge and contribute as best I can to this summer’s research projects in order to effectively communicate our findings,” she said.
Nicole Seuferer is in her fourth year of a five-year accelerated master’s program in forensic science and law at Duquesne University. Seuferer said she was interested in CSAFE’s REU program because she would get to work with other forensic science professionals in the field. “As I am conducting my own research with the help of CSAFE, I hope to finish my first phase in my project and understand the knowledge that is lacking in the legal community,” she said. “I hope to build relationships with other professionals, as well as learn from them.”
Alexandra Arabio, a recent graduate in forensic science and biology from Cedar Crest College, is also serving as a mentor. Arabio became a mentor to collaborate on projects and understand someone else’s point of view, experience and knowledge base. “I had such a great experience in the REU program last summer and was excited to be able to be a part of that great experience for someone else,” she said.
Arabio is also working with CSAFE’s handwriting analysis team to expand the handwriter software tool so it can examine handwriting using a point decomposition and rainbow triangulation method. She will continue her studies in the fall as a graduate student in statistics at Iowa State.
Seth Pierre, a senior in electrical engineering at Iowa State, is serving as an REU undergraduate mentor. Pierre said he decided to become a mentor because he wanted to share his passion for research with others. “Through this program, it would give me the opportunity to teach others about CSAFE and their research projects. Also, it gives me the ability to help others who share the same passion for research as I do,” he said.
In addition to mentoring, Pierre is currently working with other CSAFE researchers on creating a steganography detection tool kit for forensic science practitioners.
Both Arabio and Pierre participated in CSAFE’s REU program last summer. Learn more about their experiences in the article, CSAFE’s 2020 Summer Interns Thrive Despite Covid-19.
For more information about CSAFE’s learning opportunities for students, visit forensicstats.org/learning-opportunities/students.