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By Renee Busby
Reprinted with permission, Mobile Press-Register

University of Mobile students arriving for their science lab class found yellow crime scene tape covering the door.

Inside, there were muddy footprints, bullet casings, shards of glass, blood stains and a white powder that appeared to be cocaine in a toolbox.

It was a make-believe crime scene, and it was all part of an assignment in UMobile’s new Forensics Science class. The students’ job was to analyze the evidence, determine what had occurred and solve the case.

Professors Gail Shelly and Larissa Walker are team-teaching the upper level course for juniors and seniors. Forensics studies are much in demand at schools and colleges, thanks to television series like Fox’s Bones and CBS’ CSI.

On the first day of class, students were required to do a DNA analysis, determine the blood type of the perpetrator, analyze the muddy footprints, dust for fingerprints and examine a glass bottle that was broken. They also photographed the scene and bagged evidence.

“There’s definitely been at least one person injured,” said Gabriel Denton, a senior and chemistry minor who needed the class to fulfill his required curriculum.

“You see the drama side on TV, but it’s really cool to see the science side,” said senior Callie George, a pre-med major.

Senior biology major Molly Ward said the assignment “was a lot more realistic that I anticipated, with blood everywhere and broken glass.”

Shelly and Walker attended a National Science Foundation sponsored workshop in Forensics Science at Williams College in Massachusetts to become forensic investigators.

“We tested different types of glass, made casts of shoe prints, learned how to lift fingerprints, typed blood, analyzed DNA, made casts of tool marks, examined ballistic evidence, tested body fluids for drugs and adulterants and did presumptive drug testing from samples found at the crime scene,” Walker wrote in a journal that she kept.

In the class at UMobile, students function in the same way as real-life forensic experts, according to Walker.

“Throughout the semester, the students will analyze a variety of evidence, and through critical thinking and deductive reasoning, they will hopefully answer the ultimate forensic question: Whodunit?” wrote Walker in her journal at the university’s web site.

To read the complete online journal, visit umobileforensicscience.wordpress.com.