A Message From The Director
Howdy FIVS Family!
I debated how best to start this newsletter with so much being accomplished during 2018-2019. I think the most appropriate opening statement should be
Texas A&M University Forensic & Investigative Sciences Program ranked #1 in the United States!
I do not think anything else needs to be said. I along with the faculty and staff in the program are truly grateful for such recognition. But, what it truly boils down to is the students (past and present). The accomplishments they have made academically and professionally set the stage for FIVS to stand out in a crowd of exceptional programs.
However, that is just one accomplishment by our great program. Our students and faculty also reach new heights with their accomplishments. But, of course, it all starts with the students. Two students in particular, Kylee Morrison and Nick Richter, received the Senior Merit Award for the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, which is the highest award given by the college. We are truly proud of you!
We also had two faculty to receive awards during the academic year. Dr. Adrienne Brundage received the Honoring Excellence Award from the Residence Life at Texas A&M University. This award is presented to eight outstanding faculty or staff who surpass their daily job requirements and impact students positively. I do not think any of us are surprised by this recognition as Dr. Brundage’s passion, enthusiasm, and ability to inspire students goes without question.
A second faculty member received an award this year. And, writing about this individual is a bit of a challenge as it is me. So, I will keep it brief. Dr. Jeff Tomberlin received the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Pathology/Biology Section Award for Achievement in the Forensic Life Sciences. Dr. Tomberlin has been quoted as saying, “He is humbled by such recognition.” This is the top award given by the Pathology/Biology Section to non-pathologists and historically was viewed as the Lifetime Achievement Award.
As far as our graduating class, 2018-2019 was another great year. We had a total of 23 students receive their diplomas this spring. I truly enjoyed having you all in my Science & Law course this spring. I was very impressed with your willingness to discuss topics relevant to the forensic sciences and your daily lives. I know I learned a lot about myself and your engagement in class will have a lasting positive impact on me.
A Banner Year for Forensics @ TAMU
This academic year has been a phenomenal year for the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program! It’s worth repeating again: We were ranked #1 Best Bachelors in Forensic Science Degree Programs in the country!
“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.”
Last fall, several of our students participated in Dr. Jacqui Aitkenhead Peterson’s Forensic Soil Science class where they got the “dirt” on how to collect evidence from crime scenes involving soil sampling. The students received the experience in collecting soil samples and searching crime scenes for possible evidence during a mock crime scene investigation activity that is held outside the Heep Center each October. Petersen said that the activity is a major part of the course that revolves around a mock scenario called “Muddy Boots”. Let’s just say they got their hands dirty solving the scene.
This also was the first year that lecturer Seth Kovar’s FIVS 422 Crime Scene Investigation class was extended from just one week in between the winter break and the start of the spring semester last year to a full-fledged semester-long course. The course featured interesting lectures, as well as lots of hands-on learning activities in the lab portion.
Educators in Texas got a glimpse into the world of forensic and investigative sciences as they learned how to use the tools during a session in the Heep Center 207 during the STEM4Innovation conference from February 21-22. The day-and-a-half-long conference held campuswide focused on providing formal and informal educators and counselors in K-12 schools in Texas with strategies and ideas on encouraging students’ interest in careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Instructional Associate Professor of Entomology and Associate Department Head for Academic Programs Academic Programs Dr. Craig Coates and senior Forensics major Tammy Bouldin led a workshop on how to teach STEM using forensic and investigative sciences. They used several activities during the session to allow the group to experience what forensic scientists do on a daily basis.
Participants in the workshop were divided into small groups and worked on activities during the morning figuring out how to lift fingerprints off objects, studying bloodspatter patterns, lifting fingerprints off of objects, and how to solve a crime scene.
In March, students in the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization (AFIS) got the chance to help the community during this year’s Big Event when they helped a resident in Bryan to do a little spring cleaning around her home. Students helped to clean around her flower beds, rake leaves and clean brush from the front and back yards.
Plans from a Few of Our Graduating Students 2019
FATIMAH BOUDERDABEN is graduating with two degrees from Texas A&M University, a BS in Forensic and Investigative Sciences (FIVS) and a BS in Anthropology. Her main goal is to be a Forensic Anthropologist. Her undergraduate research was focused on the implementation of trans-inclusive practices in Forensic Anthropology. She hopes to further research trans-inclusivity in forensics throughout her MS where she will be continuing her education in Forensic Anthropology starting Fall 2019 at Texas State University under the guidance of Dr. Kate Spradley. As for more immediate plans, this summer, Fatimah will be collaborating with the Trans Doe Task Force both on research efforts and helping with cold casework involving possible transgender individuals. She would not be where she is today without the support of her peers and the extraordinary faculty of the FIVS program.
TAMMY BOULDIN, from Ft. Worth, Texas, not only majored in Forensic and Investigative Sciences but she also received a second degree in Entomology while also receiving a Certificate in Public Health Entomology. During her undergraduate degree she has conducted a number of research projects under multiple professors in the Entomology Department at Texas A&M University, as well as an intern at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio. She also served as president of the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Sciences Organization during her junior year. After graduation Tammy will be attending Purdue University in Indiana where she will be pursuing a Masters in Entomology with Dr. Trevor Stamper. She plans to conduct research on forensically important blow flies.
LUCAS “LUKE” DELAVEGA is from the Bay Area, California and he aspires to be a Naval Aviator soon after graduation. He envisions his career post-military to be as a detective. Following graduation in May, Luke has accepted a job in Washington D.C. to work as an Advisor at the National Student Leadership Conference in Forensic Science, specializing in Blood Spatter & Ballistics. His favorite part about his time here at Texas A&M is the unbreakable bond he has developed with my friends and fellow FIVS classmates.
BRITTANY GERICH is graduating one year her BS in Forensic and Investigative Sciences. She is also graduating with both a minor in Cybersecurity and in Chemistry. After graduation, she will be attending Sam Houston State University starting Fall 2019 to earn a Master of Science degree in Digital Forensics while also earning a certificate in Cybersecurity. Due to her internship at the College Station Police Department, her overall goal is to one day work for the government. Brittany is grateful for all of the opportunities the Department of Entomology has given her and the support her peers have provided.
ANDREW WENDEL plans to continue his education in graduate school. Starting in the Fall of 2019, he will be attending Michigan State University where he will be seeking a dual degree in Forensic Chemistry Master’s with Chemistry PhD. After Graduate school Andrew has goals of working, or doing research, for a federal agency.
ASHELY YZAGUIRRE will be attending the University of North Texas to pursue a MS in Higher Education after completing her BS in Forensic & Investigative Sciences. Once done with graduate school she hopes to continue her education and teach Forensic Psychology as a professor.
“One day. One place. Aggieland” is the theme for “Aggieland Saturday,” when Texas A&M University will open its campus to an estimated 10,000 prospective students and parents during the annual campus-wide open house. Prospective students and their families can tour campus and learn more about Texas A&M. High school students and prospective transfer students also are encouraged to participate in interactive demonstrations and learn about individual colleges, departments and majors, admission, financial aid, student life and the Bryan-College Station community. Activities are free and designed to be self-guided, so participants can focus on their particular areas of interest.
Because “Aggieland Saturday” is designed to be self-guided, each academic college and several student services offices have planned fun and informational sessions throughout the day. The Department of Entomology participates in 4 informational sessions: 1 discussing ENTO & FIVS as a route to Medical School, 1 discussing ENTO & FIVS as a route to Vet School, 1 discussing the FIVS Program and 1 discussing the ENTO Program. We average 250 attendees for the FIVS Program Presentation and 25 attendees to the ENTO Program. We have assistance with our information booth from both our FIVS and ENTO current students, as well as booths set up for both our FIVS and ENTO Student organizations.
While registration is not required, officials say it is encouraged to help ensure that visitors are accommodated to the fullest extent possible. Aggieland Saturday activities are free except for meals and parking.
“The event is set up in a ‘build your own schedule’ format so that the student can take a campus tour, view the residence halls, meet with academic departments, and get valuable admissions and financial aid information,” said assistant director Meredith Ramirez. “It’s the one day where the entire campus opens its doors to all those interested in Texas A&M.”
Aggieland Saturday is sponsored by the Office of Admissions and The Association of Former Students.
Due to the high volume of interest in Changing Majors into ENTO or FIVS, Double Majoring in ENTO or FIVS, the ENTO Minor and our Certificate in Public Health Entomology, we have scheduled three department informationals per semester. These informationals cover the application process and course requirements for the double major, minor and certificate. We average around 30 students per semester who attend one of our informationals. To register for one of the department informationals please click on the following link: Schedule an Appointment.
FIVS Prospective Informationals
In order to better accommodate those who are interested in majoring in FIVS we host a Prospective Student Informational every Friday (during fall and spring) and every other Monday in Summer. We have been averaging over 75 attendees per semester who attend this presentation to learn more about the FIVS major. Prospective freshman and transfer FIVS students learn about curriculum requirements, transfer requirements, minimum guidelines, ENTO Double Major, ENTO Minor and Certificate in Public Health Entomology. We now have the link to the FIVS Prospective Informationals on the Campus Tour website, which has increased number of attendees. If you would like to attend one the FIVS Informational Sessions, please review the available group sessions via the following link: Schedule an Appointment
New Volume of Instars Out Soon
Volume 5 of Instars: A Journal of Student Research will be published by the end of June. This volume features several papers by our FIVS students, reporting original research in the forensic sciences:
McNeal, Rachel Ann. “Clarity of Shoe Impressions in Different Soil Types” Instars: A Journal of Student Research, 5, 2019
Neuberger, Jacey R.. ” Effectiveness of Meat Tenderizer in Removal of Blood from Fabric” Instars: A Journal of Student Research, 5, 2019
Oran, Madison E. “Research on the Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony Base on an Online Study.” Instars: A Journal of Student Research, 5, 2019
Parson, Kaitlyn. ” The Effect of Various Soil Types on Decomposition Rate” Instars: A Journal of Student Research, 5, 2019
Instars is now accepting original research from dedicated forensic science students. To submit a paper or to read the current and past volumes, visit the Instars site.
FIVS Students Complete Research in the Caribbean
For the second year in a row, FIVS students have had the opportunity to conduct forensic research on the island of Trinidad through the entomology department’s longest-running study abroad program. Students enrolled in the Caribbean Study Abroad program spend the spring semester creating a research proposal and learning about the unique flora, fauna, and culture found on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago. They then spend three weeks in Toco, Trinidad carrying out their research in the field, with the goal of publishing and presenting their work.
Over the past two years, six FIVS students have taken this unique opportunity to work in the field. In 2018, Ms. Kaleigh Aaron, Ms. Madison Oran, and Ms. Angelica Rodriguez researched everything from forensically important flies, the effect of decomposition of different tissues on soils, and the medicinal qualities of local flora. In 2019, Ms. Kiara Dietz, Ms. Rachel McNeal, and Ms. Jessica Uriostigui all focused on the forensically important flies on the island, attempting to determine differences in fly colonization based on sunlight and shade, distance from the ocean, and distance from the ground. These research projects have all broadened our knowledge of important forensics concepts in the Caribbean, an historically understudied region.
The Caribbean Study Abroad program is one of the longest-running programs at TAMU. The trip recently moved from the island of Dominica to the island of Trinidad and Tobago, and is currently supervised by Dr. Kevin Conway (Wildlife and Fisheries), and Dr. Adrienne Brundage (Entomology and Forensics). Dr. Conway is a renowned expert on clingfishes and an internationally known scientist who recently received the Australian Museum Research Institute Visiting Collections Fellowship in recognition of his work. Dr. Adrienne Brundage is a diplomat of the American Board of Forensic Entomology and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Forensic Science Education. Both professors work one-on-one with students during the program and help students prepare and carry out their research projects.
Upper division FIVS students looking to complete their research requirement may find more information about the program at Dominica.tamu.edu, or by emailing Adrienne.firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications for the 2020 trip will be open starting in September. We hope to see you in Trinidad!