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SHSU Adds Forensic Anthropology Minor

Jan. 11, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles

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xray of skeletonWith interest peaked by television shows like “CSI” and “Bones” and unique opportunities available with Sam Houston State University’s Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility, the College of Criminal Justice has added a new minor in forensic anthropology.

Forensic anthropology is the application of forensic sciences to the human body and the vast amount of evidence that can be gleaned from the careful recognition, collection, and preservation of that evidence.

"It’s a field that requires no hard sciences, such as physics and chemistry, but it allows students to solve puzzles in practical ways using science,” said Joan Bytheway, STAFS director and professor of criminal justice. “There are many disciplines that we offer that would benefit from this minor, including criminal justice, forensic science, pre-med, nursing, biology, geography, archeology and chiropractic studies.”

SHSU’s forensic anthropology minor requires 17 credit hours and includes five courses—“Forensic Science,” “Foundations of Forensic Anthropology I,” “Human Osteology,” “Introduction to Forensic Anthropology” and “Special Topics” (“Advanced Techniques in Forensic Anthropology”). The courses provide hands-on applications at the STAFS Facility, one of only four willed-body facilities, in the United States for the study of forensic science as it applies to crime scenes and criminal investigations.

“Obtaining the forensic anthropology minor will instill foundational knowledge needed to pursue a career,” said Robyn Salerno, a SHSU student who is pursuing the minor. “The classes for the minor present the technology and techniques commonly used in the forensic anthropology field, but also introduce the many different disciplines within the field.

“I think the type of people entering and pursuing the field of Forensic Science have an innate curiosity that goes beyond that of an average person,” Salerno said. “They are critical thinkers, pay attention to detail, observe and are not afraid to ask questions.”

The benefits of the minor will go well beyond criminal justice. It can help educate students about the human body and skeleton, for those pursuing degrees in the medical field or develop techniques, and skills for those seeking degrees in archeology, geography and forensic science. It also offers the necessary foundation for those who want to continue their education in the forensic science or forensic anthropology fields.

“It’s a really good attribute to have in any of these fields,” Bytheway said. “It is a great asset to those going into the field of criminal justice who may be working on crime scenes. I get phone calls and photos from police asking if bones are animal or human. For the medical field, it teaches you a lot about the muscular-skeletal system and working with the human body. It also provides a good foundation for classes at the graduate level.”

In addition to providing a strong background in the human body and osteology, students will have the opportunity to work on state-of-the-art equipment available at STAFS, including devices to cut bone and examine bone slides, a digitizer and 3D printer to illustrate bones, and ground penetrating radar to detect human remains in soil. In the final class, students will get a case of their own and be required to identify the victim by age, sex, race, trauma and height.

The introduction of a new minor also will open the door for new research opportunities at STAFS through access to the facility’s collection of modern skeletal remains.

More information on this minor can be found at shsu.edu/catalog/cj.html.



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