Forensics lab to provide hands-on experience solving CSI-style crimes

SOU Professor Doug Chapman assists Phoenix High School student Andrew Vargas during the 2010 forensics lab

SOU Professor Doug Chapman assists Phoenix High School student Andrew Vargas during the 2010 forensics lab

High school and community college students from all around Oregon will flock to the Chemistry Department’s seventh annual Forensic Workshop, Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Southern Oregon University’s Science Building.

For one Saturday every year, participants get hands-on experience solving a CSI-style crime. However, it’s less about the criminology aspect of collecting evidence and more about analyzing data to identify the culprit.

“We address the idealism of CSI–type television shows…so they can get a feel for how challenging analysis can be,” said Hala Schepmann, associate professor of Bioorganic Chemistry at SOU, and a leading organizer for the event.

Every year, the participants have asked them to make solving the crime more difficult, so this year they’re adding a special twist, Schepmann said. She wouldn’t reveal what this twist would be.

Students are also given a tour of both the library and science buildings and will interact with current SOU faculty, staff, and students at every station.

“We’re not asking them to come to SOU but [the event] exposes them to the college atmosphere and undergraduate science at SOU,” said Schepmann. “We focus on expanding their knowledge of the college experience.”

The Chemistry Department reached out nearly nine years ago to find out how to better serve the Rogue Valley’s science instructors. The response was simple: increased exposure to college science for their students. Eventually, the event grew beyond high schools.

Although the Chemistry Department remains the chief sponsor and organizer, they’ve received plenty of support over the years. The SOU Bookstore provided the folders and pens, and this year the Admissions Office supplied bags for each student along with shirts and flash drives to be given away at the end of the day. Even SOU’s Chemistry Club will take part, hosting a chemistry question session where students can win prizes for correct answers.

Schepmann hopes students take away “the joy of science…its broad applications.”

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