Have you ever watched CSI and thought: “I could do that”?
Have you ever sat in your recliner with a bag of chips, watching the characters uncovering the crime scene, and tried to solve the investigation before the show reveals the ending?
If you answered yes to these questions, then Waynesburg University may be the place to test your abilities.
Earlier this week, four Waynesburg forensic science students accepted the challenge to live out their own CSI moments when they were called by the Maltase Fire Investigation http://www.maltasefire.com/ to help investigate the source of a local house fire.
Seniors Stephanie Yocca, Jennifer Miller, Cory Briendel and junior Drew Heinle dug through layers of ashy debris in search of any electrical appliances that could have potentially ignited the flames.
Like the actors in CSI, minus the Hollywood theatricals and glamour, the students sifted through the scene, locating and documenting every appliance they found. Every suspected culprit was then handed off to an electrical engineer for x-rays who will determine whether there were any faulty parts present.
While the students await the news of whether it was a lamp, toaster, computer or an unidentified device that set the house ablaze, Professor Michael Cipoletti, Assistant Professor and Program Director of Forensic Sciences, claims the real-life experience was invaluable.
“Although the University is good at providing realistic mock scenes on campus with our Crime Scene Investigation Center, we aren’t going to set it on fire,” said Cipoletti. “Here the students got to experience an actual scene under difficult, real conditions, and learn from a professional investigator first-hand.”
So next time you find yourself trying to solve the latest crime scene mystery from your couch, think about your future and what you could be doing with your own investigation skills.
Are you up for the challenge?
As part of our mission to engage, educate and enrich the community, our Forensic Science Club visited Jefferson Morgan Elementary. Our students taught the elementary school students about fingerprints and let them develop and lift some latent prints. Through coordination with the FBI via Waynesburg University graduate Alison Chasko, our Forensic Science Club also helped the children fill out National Child ID Program Kits, which record their own fingerprints. The children took the kits home so their parents could fill out other vital info, actually collect DNA (cheek swab) and attach current photos. The kit also came with a wallet card containing their child's thumb print for parents to keep with them. If the child ever becomes lost or missing, the information can be used to assist authorities.
Michael Cipoletti is the Forensic Science Program Director at Waynesburg University
This past summer at Waynesburg University’s CSI camp, attendees and the general public were treated to a speaking engagement with Dr. Cyril Wecht. Dr. Wecht spoke about the history of Forensic Science, the current state of the industry and prominent cases from his own career.
If you'd like to learn more about Waynesburg University's Forensic Science program, click here.
Waynesburg University’s Department of Chemistry and Forensic Science was recently selected to host the American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) Educators Conference, which commenced August 7 through August 9.
To be selected to host the conference, an institution must meet AAFS’s criteria as a “major institution of higher education, preferably one with a forensic science program in place and under the direction of an AAFS fellow/member.”
“People on a national level must be noticing the undergraduate, graduate and service work we are accomplishing as a University,” said Mike Cipoletti, associate member of AAFS, assistant professor of forensic science and director of the University’s forensic science program.
According to Cipoletti, the success and reputation of quality associated with the University’s Crime Scene Investigation Camp for high school students may have been an important factor in being selected to host the conference.
Additionally, the faculty of the University’s forensic science program has made a concerted effort to establish connections with working professionals and agencies to provide students with cutting-edge forensic science knowledge. Because of this, the University was able to coordinate expert speakers for the conference, including Detective Tim Sethman (Westmoreland County), Peter Alex (FBI Criminal Justice Information Services), Sara Bittner (Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office), Trooper Rich Hunter (Pennsylvania State Police) and Allison Murtha (RJ Lee Group).
“All of the presenters are experienced trainers and/or educators, so they were able to share ideas and tips that the teachers may be able to use in their own classrooms and labs,” Cipoletti said.
University faculty members, including Cipoletti; Adam Jack, assistant professor of forensic science and chair of criminal justice and social science; and Marietta Wright, assistant professor of biology, led a majority of the sessions including General Crime Scene Processing, DNA Analysis and Interpretation, Latent Print Development and Drug Identification.
Among the conference attendees were educators from all over the country, including Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Virginia and Washington.
“I have gained the tools, skills and confidence necessary to teach forensics for the first time,” said Maggie Chambers, a biology and forensics high school teacher from Redmond, Wash. “This opportunity to network and share ideas with experts and other teachers has been invaluable.”
I'm back! So as I promised in my last blog entry, here's an update for the past day or so.
On Wednesday, the campers started off their day with a little burial excavation - dirt, sunshine, skeletons, and shovels (What more do you need?!) After being taken through the steps of how to excavate a burial site, the students were split into teams, and allowed to uncover their own sites, figuring out what happened to the body in the ground (insert second disclaimer here - no real bodies were used!)
After the excavation, the campers were given some free time while we had a cookout. They played some games and enjoyed the amazing weather that we have had this week.
It was after the fun and sun that the real work began though, as the students had to put on their HAZMAT suits (also known as hazardous materials suits - picture giant ghostbuster looking outfits, minus the air tanks and fancy equipment) and begin processing arson scenes. The students were required to use everything that they learned from the ATF and the Pennsylvania State Trooper/Fire Marshal that they talked to earlier this week. The campers really seemed to enjoy that, and having taken a class this past semester on responding to biological and chemical weapons, I could definitely relate to them - for class, we had to wear the suits, and while they were super hot inside, it was pretty awesome to walk around in crime scenes covered head to toe in the suits. Plus they look pretty ridiculous in a totally awesome way.
On Thursday we spent most of the day at the FBI CJIS Division in Clarksburg, WV. Without giving everything away, we were able to tour some of the facility, speak with FBI profilers, learn about biometrics (and seeing where exactly your fingerprints go when you get entered into the system ), watch the bomb squad dogs sniff out explosives, and learn about some of the hardships that officers face in the line of duty. We even got to go to the gift store too and stock up on our FBI souvenirs - parents, if you are lucky, maybe your camper brought you something back!
Last, but certainly not least, we spent the past 2 hours listening to Dr. Cyril Wecht, a world reknowned forensic pathologist. Dr. Wecht has completed over 18,000 autopsies, and has consulted on major cases,including:
- The JFK assassination
- The OJ Simpson case
- The JonBenet Ramsey case
- Laci Peterson case
- Elvis Presley's death
I would just like to take a minute to thank our presenters! We are so fortunate to have professionals from such diverse backgrounds and fields represented at CSI camp.
Stay tuned for more!
Caiti Fillipi is a student blogger and the Waynesburg University CSI Camp coordinator. She is a junior in Forensic Science.
Hi everyone! My name is Caiti Filippi, and I am writing to you as the Coordinator for this year's CSI Camp! To give you a little bit of background about me, I am a senior from Huntingtown, MD, and I am studying Criminal Justice here at Waynesburg University. This is my 5th year with Waynesburg's CSI Camp - my first two years I was a camper, my third year a camp counselor, and last year I helped out behind the scenes. This year, as coordinator, I have had not only a bigger role behind the scenes, but I have helped our Camp Director (Mike Cipoletti) plan the camp from start to finish, which has been so cool! To go from being a camper to now helping organize the entire week has been pretty awesome to say the least, but enough about me! I want to give you an inside look at some of the things that we have been doing this past week, but first a little background on this years camp. We have 54 campers from a variety of states, including:
• and even ones from Florida and Arizona! How cool is that?!
In addition to the campers, we have 20 camp counselors who are all current Waynesburg University students, majoring in Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, Forensic Accounting, and Computer Forensics. I just want to say how awesome our camp staff is - we could not run this camp without them!
And now for the good stuff - crime scenes, arson investigations, profiling, cybercrimes, surveillances, and search warrant executions! Those are just a handful of things that we have done the past few days here, and we are nowhere near done yet!
The campers arrived on Sunday, and while they were given a small idea of what to expect for the week, I don't think they had any clue just how much we had planned for them. After the first few hours of move-ins, introductions, and getting to know each other, we jumped into the swing of things by kicking things off with scavenger hunts, movies, and ice cream socials - the campers really seemed to enjoy the first night and were so excited to get started the next day!
The second day of camp was definitely jam-packed with activities and presenters, and the students loved it! We brought in so many professionals including, an expert in forensic psychology (Waynesburg University professor Dr. Keith Reider), an FBI agent from the FBI-CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services) division in Clarksburg, WV, and agents from the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF for short) - Pittsburgh Division, just to name a few. The campers were able to learn how to properly process crime scenes, how to conduct arson investigations, how to profile suspects (including what it takes to profile serial killers - scary stuff!), and how to determine the different types of explosives used... this was just all in one day!
Day 3 (which is probably my favorite day of camp) was definitely active to say the least. The night before, myself and two other counselors showed the campers what it means to conduct a surveillance, and gave them some tips for successfully following other suspects. Yesterday was the campers turn to give it a try, and see how hard it is to follow someone for a few hours without them even knowing. As I am sure they can tell you, it is not an easy task! Here at Waynesburg University, students in criminal justice and the forensics have to participate in surveillances as a part of a class that we must take in order to graduate - so we decided to give the campers a taste of what that is like for us, and we ask University students to act as role players (aka drug dealers) and be followed around by the campers for a few hours. The role players make fake drug deals, and the campers are asked to move in, make arrests, and conduct interviews in order to collect enough info for a search warrant. When all is said and done, at the end of yesterday, fake drugs were sold, arrests were made, search warrants were executed, doors were kicked down, and evidence was collected - all in all, a pretty awesome day!
If that sounds exciting, wait until you hear what the campers are doing today. Burial excavations!!! We set up scenes for the campers to dig up, using the proper techniques shown to them so that they can uncover remains and figure out what happened to that person. Before I continue, let me just insert a major disclaimer here and say that no real bodies were used in this!! (Just in case you were concerned about that - I know I would be!) We use fake skeletons, and bury it with evidence, so that the campers have to fit the pieces together and solve the puzzle.
That is all I have for now, but feel free to ask any questions, and stay tuned for more updates throughout the camp!