The fifth annual Forensic Science Symposium kicked off Tuesday, March 15, by welcoming nearly 100 Miami-Dade County students as part of the first High School Student Forensic Academy at FIU.
Hosted by FIU’s International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI), this academy is designed to inspire students to pursue STEM careers through interactions with forensic scientists, professors, researchers and FIU students.
“I think it’s important to expose future forensic scientists to the tools they may need to succeed in the forensic science discipline of their choice,” said Agnes D. Winokur ’05, associate laboratory director in the Office of Forensic Sciences for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Southeast Laboratory.
Presentations focused on the importance of collaboration, organization and communication in this field.
FIU biologist DeEtta Mills, spoke about canine heroes. She highlighted the various roles dogs play in law enforcement, homeland security and the agricultural industry – including the work our researchers are doing with dogs and drones to fight laurel wilt, which is destroying avocado trees at alarming rates.
The students participated in a K-9 unit scent detection demonstration and toured FIU’s state-of-the art trace evidence and DNA profiling facilities. Through resources from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, they also witnessed a demonstration on drugs of abuse and the effects these illicit drugs can have.
“This high school academy emphasizes FIU’s commitment to STEM education as well as community engagement and outreach through ongoing collaborations with M-DCPS and local law enforcement agencies including Miami-Dade Police Department, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the regional Drug Enforcement Administration Laboratory,” IFRI Director Jose R. Almirall said.
These students were part of the largest scientific meeting of forensic science professionals in South Florida. Participating schools included Miami Palmetto Senior High School, Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial High School and Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High.
The symposium continued Wednesday, March 16, with sessions covering chemistry, psychology and biology for forensic science professionals. Topics included interviewing intoxicated witnesses, bloodstain pattern analysis, one-step cocaine detection, examining digital video evidence, screening for designer drugs and rapid detection of “Flakka” – a highly addictive synthetic amphetamine-like stimulant.
For information about the High School Student Forensic Academy or the Forensic Science Symposium, visit ifri.fiu.edu.