Natural Sciences Department
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Barstow Hall 202
Belknap and Catlin
P.O. Box 2000
Superior, WI 54880
Natural Sciences Department
News and Events Details
By Brittany Berrens
University Relations student writer
Kimberly Beesley is using infrared technology to analyze different types of fabric so she can create a "fabric library" that scientists could use as a reference for solving crimes. The scenario may sound like something out of a television show, but it's happening at the University of Wisconsin-Superior as part of the forensic chemistry concentration.
The forensic chemistry concentration, part of the Department of Natural Sciences, enables students to combine coursework in chemistry, biology and criminal justice to learn the science and technology used in crime investigations as well as related legal issues such as investigations management.
The only program of its kind in the region, the concentration is recognized by several crime labs in the area as being a good start for students interested in crime scene investigation as a career field.
Crime scene technology
Students in the program are working with different types of technology that would be useful when working on evidence from a crime scene. They've worked on different activities such as detecting traces of drugs on money, identifying oils from hands, and using equipment that illuminates finger prints in a room.
"Any time you can do experiments with real-life applications that they can see easily, it's immediately of more interest to students," said chemistry professor Dr. James Lane.
In a physical chemistry class, students get a chance to take a look at laser processing of fingerprints. Laser processing is becoming a common way for law enforcement officials to identify finger prints.
"Technology like this is getting more and more common as the cost goes down," said chemistry professor Dr. Michael Waxman. "It used to only be in large cities, but now you're finding it in more areas."
Creating a 'fabric library'
Beesley, who's from Iron River, Wis., is putting a real-life application of science for her senior year experience project. She's created a library of 18 different fabric types. The collection will allow her to identify unknown fabrics by comparing their infrared spectrum to that of the known fabrics. She said the fabric library could be useful for those working to solve a crime.
"It could be helpful for fabric recognition," she said. "You could compare unknown fabric which could be helpful determining something found at a crime scene."
'Looking at the small stuff'
Shanna Radloff, a freshman from Wausau, Wis., said the program offers a fascinating look into the world of forensic science.
"I really like looking into the small stuff," she said. "It would be really cool to get to work on an actual crime scene eventually."
Radloff hopes that her forensic chemistry degree will help her get into medical school, where she wants to work on genetics-related research.
The forensic chemistry concentration was introduced for the Fall 2009 semester. Ten students currently are majoring in the program.
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