Pennsylvania students sit in on URI forensic science lecture

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Busing it to hear the buzz about bugs in solving crime

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 5, 2010 – For many Rhode Islanders, a five-hour, 275-mile drive would seem like an eternity of endless roads, but for a group of Pennsylvania college students, long distance travel is routine.

Tammy Barette, coordinator of the forensic biology program and forensic science club advisor at Keystone College, has been traveling around the country with a dedicated group of students attending various conferences and seminars related to forensic science.

Recently travelling to the University of Rhode Island, Barette and 15 students sat in on the lecture, “Forensic Entomology: Introduction, Strengths and Limitations,” delivered by Robert Kimsey, assistant adjunct professor at the University of California, Davis. Part of URI’s fall forensic science seminar, Kimsey’s lecture focused on the important role of insects in many civil and criminal legal cases.

As one of the only professors at Keystone College who teaches forensic science, Barette is passionate about exposing students to opportunities to learn more about the field.

“Some of the other professors on campus only deal with one concentration and don’t focus on the relationship of the legal system and how forensics play into that,” said Barette. “Exposing the students to experts in the field who have experience with science and legal cases is really important to expand their knowledge and allows them to grasp important concepts.”

“It’s only because of Tammy that we have these opportunities,” said Jillian YonKondy, a forensic biology senior. “Keystone College is a small school and she’s the only one who takes the time to organize the trips and volunteers to drive.”

Due to their interest in the field and surrounding fields, students raise the money to cover their travel expenses on their own.

“We hold fundraisers by selling candy bars or crime scene pride bracelets (think yellow Livestrong bracelets) and receive some funding from Student Senate,” said YonKondy. “The remaining travel expenses are covered by the students.”

Besides attending seminars to reinforce what’s learned in the classroom, Barette also encourages her students to participate in forensic science competitions. Last July, a team comprised solely of Keystone students took first place in the International Association of Identification mock crime scene competition. Teams were given three days to dissect a fabricated crime scene and gather clues to deduce what happened. The Keystone College team has competed four times, placing first three times and even beating out the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Although long drives can seem daunting to most, Barette and her students are eager to hit the road.

“Attending different forensic science seminars and conferences broadens our horizons in the field of forensic science and criminal justice. Forensic science is a large topic to cover during a semester so it’s good to go to different lectures and hear what other people have to offer,” said Brianna Gieski, a forensic biology senior.

“Hearing what the speakers have to say reinforces what we’ve learned in class and puts a new perspective on it,” said Brianna Cremard, a junior majoring in forensic biology.

Having attended prior seminars in this semester’s series, Barette and her team of students plan on making the trip back to Rhode Island in November to attend a lecture about the National Academy of Science.

Pictured above

Michael Niscia pays attention to Kimsey’s lecture on forensic entomology.

Group Shot

First Row: (Left to Right) Dr. Tammy Barette, Rebecca Jo Lynch, Nicole Dobson, Isabel Castro, Michael Niscia, Kelly McAndrew, Manuel Reyes, Jimmie Oxley, URI chemistry professor

Second Row: (Left to Right) Rylan Coker, Scott Sienko, Gina Daniels, Linit Evans, Brianna Borowski, Jillian YonKondy, Marjorie Flores, Brianna Gieski, Brianna Cremard, Robert Kimsey, Dennis Hilliard, R.I. State Crime Lab director.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photos by Michael Salerno Photography.

This release was written by Alicia Blain, an intern in URI’s Department of Communications and Marketing and a public relations major.