The Game is Afoot at CASEE

Career talk           Everyone loves a good mystery, especially CASEE seniors! Forensic Scientist Amelia Bussell of the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab in Vancouver joined CASEE Biotechnology students to share details about her career in forensic science. Amelia has worked some amazing and unique jobs that many people could find nightmarish, including a high altitude body farm in Colorado and crime labs in Virginia and West Texas. Her presentation detailed all the different jobs in forensic investigation and the education required for each as well as a smattering of personal experience that brought the information to life. One eye opening story was about working in crime scene response when she was shot at by a dead body! Apparently the police did not thoroughly clear the scene as they had said and a gun still in the victim’s hand fired when she was rolling the body over. She recounts “I had a strongly worded conversation with the officers after that,” and that is why she prefers the controlled environment of the lab. We really appreciated that all of her stories were entertaining but also carried an important message about pursuing any career.

           In addition to sharing information about her education and career history, Amelia provided less obvious but equally important information with our seniors for navigating any career. She compared her past and current employers as well as differences in the nature of her work between places, encouraging students to move around until they find somewhere they enjoy working. At one point she exclaimed “I have windows in my lab now! You have no idea how great windows are until you’ve had to work somewhere with out them.” Amelia was also blatantly honest about the emotional struggles forensic investigators face as “You see the worst of humanity.” Then she gave more universally helpful information about how she deals with the stress of her job through healthy activities like reading, running and camping.

crime tech           She followed her presentation about careers in forensic science with hands on demonstration of the techniques used by her lab to uncover trace evidence detailing the chemical and biological principles behind each. Students revealed bloody finger prints on plates and coffee cups, “because criminals get really thirsty after they commit a crime.” They also compared the effectiveness of different chemical techniques on different surfaces to explain why forensic investigation includes so many different fields and protocols.

Amelia’s visit cemented the biotechnology concepts our seniors are learning in class but maybe, more importantly, introduced skills they can all use to find success in any career they choose. We are so grateful for Amelia’s involvement in our program and look forward to her visit next year.

finger print          CASEE Seniors will combine their new understanding of what a forensic investigator does and skills learned in Biotechnology to solve a mystery on campus. They will look for DNA evidence at the crime scene and compare it to suspect DNA to catch the culprit.

Stay tuned as we will be providing up to data information as it becomes available!

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