Forensics Program Receives #1 Best Bachelors Program in US

Bailey Dunn, left, and Fatimah Bouderdaben checking out evidence during a mock accident investigation during the FIVS 422 Crime Scene Investigation class. Photo by Rob Williams

Bailey Dunn, left, and Fatimah Bouderdaben checking out evidence during a mock accident investigation during the FIVS 422 Crime Scene Investigation class. Photo by Rob Williams

The Department of Entomology’s Forensic and Investigative Program has a reason to celebrate this year as it was ranked in the top 25 Best Bachelors in Forensic Science Degree Programs in the country.

The Bachelor’s Degree Center, an independent resource website, ranked the program #1 out of 25 Best Bachelors in Forensic Science Programs during its latest release in late March. The rankings were based on several factors including cost, reputation, salaries of former students’ jobs, graduation and job placement rates.

The program started in 2007 after seeing growing popularity of the Department’s Science of Forensic Entomology (ENTO 431) and Applied Forensic Entomology (ENTO 432) courses that were taught by the late Dr. Jimmy Olson.

The program received its accreditation by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, or FEPAC, in 2012 and has grown from two courses to several, including a major offering courses in forensic soils, impression evidence, and crime scene investigations.

“I am flattered by the recognition of our program as the top program in the nation,” program director Dr. Jeff Tomberlin said. “I believe such a recognition is a testament to the commitment the faculty, college, and university has for its students as a well as a reflection of the type of student matriculating through our program.”

Instructional Assistant Professor Dr. Adrienne Brundage has been teaching courses in the program since its inception 12 years ago and was impressed by the quality of service that the faculty and advising staff have done to keep it running.

“I’ve been lucky enough to watch this group of passionate, talented, and dedicated professionals work overtime and on weekends to make it happen,” Brundage said.  “Everyone involved, from Dr. Tomberlin as the director, to Ms. Pool and Mrs. Hapes as advisors, to every single professor and guest lecturer is completely focused on the success of our students. It’s that dedication and focus that really helped the program thrive.”

Students in Dr. Adrienne Brundage's FIVS 205 Intro to Forensics course learning bloodspatter patterns. Photo by Rob Williams

Students in Dr. Adrienne Brundage’s FIVS 205 Intro to Forensics course learning bloodspatter patterns. Photo by Rob Williams

Brundage noted that the students have seen the results of the high quality teaching the program has worked hard to bring.

“I think the students see the amount of work everyone puts into the program and the students work hard in return,” Brundage said.  “With a team like this it’s almost impossible to not achieve great things!”

“We train our students with the goal of producing problem solvers,” said Dr. Aaron Tarone, a professor that teaches a forensics class.   “This ranking, which was determined in part by post-graduation placement rates and salaries, suggests that we are accomplishing our goal.”

Senior Forensics major Nicholas Richter said the program has been very helpful.

“The Forensic and Investigative Sciences program at Texas A&M has really pushed me to grow, not only in my understanding of technical skills related to the field of Forensic Science, but more importantly in my thinking and reasoning as a scientist,” said senior Forensics student Nicholas Richter. “The professors truly strive to encourage critical and original thought, and I think this ranking speaks to all the efforts of the department to put the students in a position to be successful and to do things the right way.”

Kejaun Tate photographing a fingerprint from a mock accident scene. (Photo by Rob Williams.)

Kejaun Tate photographing a fingerprint from a mock accident scene. (Photo by Rob Williams.)

Senior Fatimah Bouderdaben loved the fact the program is helping her to prepare for a career after graduation.

“When I saw that A&M was ranked #1, I was not surprised. Looking at the criteria that they looked at, one of the major characteristics that were put into this ranking was the success of the graduates,” said Fatimah Bouderdaben, senior Forensics major. “I know that this program prepares us to do well after college. Especially in your senior year. We are pushed to be independent and our professional skills are honed. I am proud to graduate from this program.”

Former student Charity Owings graduated with a double major in FIVS and ENTO from Texas A&M in 2010. She is currently finishing her PhD at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) studying the mediators of blow fly population genetics.

“I am not surprised this program has been ranked #1 in the country – it is truly the best forensics bachelors program out there, boasting both top-tier instructors and intensive coursework geared towards preparing students for real-world challenges,” Owings said.

Former student Casey Flint graduated in 2017 with the pre-law emphasis and is a Ph.D. student in Entomology at Texas A&M.

Sam Franklin recording notes during the FIVS 422 lab. Photo by Rob Williams

Sam Franklin recording notes during the FIVS 422 lab. Photo by Rob Williams

“I’m honored to have graduated from this program, and come back to help teach the current students. This program prepares graduates to go into extremely diverse fields and be successful wherever they go,” she said.  “We have had students enroll in straight PhD programs in toxicology and entomology, go to medical school, become officers in the Army and Marine Corps, work for city, state, and federal investigative agencies, and much more. I’m excited to see this program grow and produce more forensic science professionals.”

Hannah Roblyer graduated in 2013 and is currently a litigator in Houston for Beck and Redden handling both trials and appeals for the firm.

“Texas A&M’s forensic science program has been preeminent for years; its recent recognition comes not as a surprise but as a welcome confirmation.  I felt—and still feel—that my journey through the Forensic and Investigative Sciences (‘FIVS’) degree was tailor-made to suit my needs and goals; the faculty promote flexibility and individuality without sacrificing excellence,” Roblyer said.  “Because the degree is tucked into a small department at a massive institution, students receive the benefit of vast resources in an environment where everyone knows their names.”

Shay Coplin recording a soil temperature reading from the ground outside a site at a mock crime scene during the Forensic Soil Science course.

Shay Coplin recording a soil temperature reading from the ground outside a site at a mock crime scene during the Forensic Soil Science course.

Roblyer added that the high-quality curriculum and faculty and staff, as well as having numerous career opportunities are what helped the program become what it is now.

“I think the outstanding curricula, well-reasoned course planning, and endless opportunities are the bones of the program; continuous encouragement and thoughtful mentorship are the heart and mind,” she said.  “It is, of course, the natural conclusion that a program so special should be named the best in the country.  Congratulations to all those who make it what it is.”

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