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High School students Get Hands-On with Forensic Science

CSAFE is initiating enthusiasm for forensic science through hands-on educational experiences for local youth.  In July 2017, CSAFE coordinated and sponsored a weeklong forensic science course at Iowa State University for talented and gifted students.

The course, “Discovering Forensics- From the Crime Scene to the Court Room,” provided 15 high school students with the opportunity to explore the entire process of a criminal investigation. Students were from Denison, Marshalltown, and Ames, Iowa and were all participants of the Science Bound pre-collegiate program designed to empower Iowa Students of color to pursue degrees and careers in the STEM fields.

In this interactive class, students learned how statistics and forensic science work together to ensure the right person is brought to justice. Students enhanced team-building skills through hands on learning experiences.  Evidence collection, analyzation of data, and interpretation of results were key activities.

Students appreciated the opportunity to engage with evidence.  As one student said, “This program exceeded my expectations because it was so hands on.”

The students were able to see forensic science in action during a field trip to the State of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Crime Laboratory.  Students were especially interested in Questioned Documents examiner Gary Licht’s presentation on forensic handwriting analysis.

Feedback from students included, “My favorite part of the tour was learning about how hand-writing can be used as evidence in a crime scene. I think it’s cool how everyone has their own style of writing and how easy it is to catch someone faking a signature just by looking at the small details of the style it was written in.”

CSAFE Director Alicia Carriquiry, Iowa State University police officer Natasha Oren, and CSAFE partner institution lawyer Brandon Garrett all participated as guest speakers. Each presenter highlighted noteworthy case studies to show the progression of an investigation from evidence collection at a crime scene to a conviction made in the courtroom.

CSAFE undergraduate interns led a question and answer session to encourage students to pursue the benefits of college.

Students enjoyed the opportunity to meet others interested in the field of forensic science, and explore ways to succeed in this career path.

“It was an amazing and educational week, I had a lot of fun and your teachings push me to be even more of what I want to be,” one student said.

Learn more about the OPPTAG program here, and visit the Science Bound website to discover additional pre-college programs for middle and high school student. Contact CSAFE Communications and Outreach Coordinator Sarah Carraher at to discuss a partnership with your youth outreach