Sunday, June 26, 2005

CSI: Little Kids

The CSI shows have become an amazing marketing tool for the forensics industry. This article in the NYTimes talks about forensics camps springing up around the country:

"The National Science Teachers Association and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences have reported a surge in interest among students, and many schools now include some aspects of forensics in science curriculums."
Penn State just started a forensics major and hired the director of forensic biology in New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner to head the program. The forensics program is described as an "interdisciplinary program incorporating basic science courses with courses from anthropology; entomology; veterinary science and toxicology; crime, law and justice; ethics; statistics and psychology." Let's hope genetics (specifically molecular population genetics) are included in the "basic science courses." With so much talk about DNA testing in criminal cases it would be a shame for someone to graduate with a degree in forensics and not be able to explain the difference between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA or how we can determine the probability a particular banding pattern on a gel belongs to a random individual from the population.

The article goes on to discuss the difference between real forensics and forensics as it's portrayed in prime time TV:
"The American Academy of Forensic Sciences has sponsored conferences for middle school and high school teachers since 2002 to show them how to present forensic techniques in an accurate way because the television portrayal is not always the way it is done in reality."
You mean there isn't a machine that I can put a blood sample into, and it will genotype that individual at 12 marker loci in less than one minute? Are you telling me I still need to purify DNA from my sample, PCR the DNA, and run out the products on a gel or in a chromatography machine? Yeah folks, it really takes about an entire day (at the very least) to genotype an individual (assuming everything goes right) . . . and that's only if the markers are already designed.


At 9:33 PM, Blogger afarensis said...

The High School my daughter goes to has a semester long Forensics class. I think it may be a good idea as it stikes me as a fun, but sneaky, way of getting kids interested in science.


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