With no forensic science program, student club thrives at the U

With aspirations of working for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension examining cadavers to determine the outcome of a criminal trial, members of the University’s Forensic Science Club are learning about their dream job.

However, unlike some student groups that are focused around a future career goal, the club’s members can not major in forensic science because the University does not offer a forensic science program.

The group formed when Kathryn Hanna, College of Biological Sciences professor, noticed her students were interested in forensic science, but found that there was no curriculum offered to satisfy their curiosity.

“TV has a lot of influence on what students think about for a career,” Hanna said. With television shows such as “CSI” and “Law and Order: SVU,” it’s no wonder there’s a growing interest in forensic science, she said.

Minnesota’s first forensic science club formed last May with 10 members. The group’s membership now exceeds 100.

Junior Holly Hofstad, the club’s president and one of its founding members, said interest in the club has been overwhelming.

With no degree program in forensic science closer than the University of Chicago, University students are working with what is offered to them. Some choose majors in mortuary science, while others study anthropology or other science-related fields.

Not many forensic science internships are available in the area to supplement coursework or club activities, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Hofstad said the club plays a big role in her education. The group has made two trips to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office, where members participated in a tour and saw a short presentation about specific cases handled there. Speakers have also visited club meetings to give lectures.

Val Servinka, an entomologist, spoke to the group about how she uses insects in solving cases. Entomology is just one of the fields someone interested in forensic science might pursue.

“I think it’s just fascinating how they can use bugs to determine time of death,” Hofstad said.

Among other fields included are forensic engineering, nursing, accounting, computer science, biology, odontology and pathology.

CLA junior Melissa Houdek, FSC vice-president, said the speakers are an important part of the club for her.

“There’s so little around the Midwest for forensic sciences; it’s really nice to have people come in who are in the field talk about what options are out there pertaining to forensic science,” Houdek said.

There is a ray of hope for those interested in forensic science classes. Next fall, Hanna, who is also the director of the Biology Colloquium Program, will be co-teaching a freshman seminar called “Biologists Look at Forensic Science.”

SaraMari Orth is a freelance writer. The freelance editor welcomes comments at [email protected]