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Forensic faculty showcased in upcoming video

Jan. 13, 2005

By Cassie Lynott

"CSI: Athens" is coming soon ... or something like it. Two video crews from Horizons Companies in Columbus visited the campus on Jan. 14 to interview several key faculty members from Ohio University's forensics program in the departments of chemistry and biochemistry, sociology and anthropology and biological sciences and the Law Enforcement Technology program for an upcoming video project contracted by McGraw-Hill Publishers. The final video will run eight- to 10-minutes and include faculty interviews and demonstrations of the department's forensic equipment.

Professor Nancy Tatarek being filmed for the video. Photos by Rick FaticaForensic science combines elements of chemistry, anthropology and biology to investigate crime, which include those committed against individuals like homicide, theft, fraud, and arson, or against society like food adulteration, environmental pollution, use and distribution of unsafe chemicals, and dangerous working conditions.

The video, intended to be shown in high school science classrooms, will focus on the "gadgets, analytical chemistry, the development of new instruments and how the labs modify these instruments to find new uses in the forensic field," says Glen Jackson, assistant professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Nancy Tatarek, professor of sociology and anthropology, will be discussing what happens when she encounters human remains and the processes that must be taken when cleaning, analyzing and recovering these remains.

"It's just human nature to be interested in what people perceive as a mystery. Shows like CSI do a great job combining that mystery with science and making it seem appealing," says Tatarek. "My hope is that this video shows the reality of science while still making it exciting."

Recently, Clippinger Lab received a new piece of equipment, the Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometer, or GC-MS, which will be shown in the video. The GC-MS is "considered one of a few 'gold standards' in forensic instrumentation because of its diverse applications, reliability, reproducibility and limits of detection," says Jackson.

The GC-MS is found in crime labs nation-wide and labs depend on the instrument to separate components from complex compounds in solving arsenal or drug abuse crimes, or identifying levels of substances, like steroids in athletes.

Along with Jackson and Tatarek, the video will feature biological sciences professor Scott Moody, Law Enforcement Technology Coordinator James McKean, chemistry and biochemistry professor Peter Harrington and Professor of Chemistry and Assistant Dean of College of Arts and Sciences Howard Dewald.

Faculty will be demonstrating instruments used in the undergraduate teaching laboratory including a comparison microscope (for ballistics and bullet comparisons), fingerprint fuming and infrared analyses to compare and contrast different plastics. Much of the work done in Ohio University's forensic labs is for research; however, faculty may assist in a number of regional cases that require forensics as well.

Cassie Lynott is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.

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