Baylor Forensic Science Team Gets Much-Needed Transportation

Nov. 10, 2000

by Lori Scott Fogleman

Baylor University's 110-student forensic science team, which has provided assistance to local law enforcement agencies on several high-profile homicide cases, received the keys to a much-needed source of transportation today at a Waco car dealership.

The 15-passenger van and 8-by-12 foot enclosed trailer, which will allow the team to travel together and securely store vital equipment and evidence, was made possible by a $32,000 grant from the Vivian L. Smith Foundation of Houston.

In the past, students in the forensic science major have had to travel in separate vehicles to crime scenes as far as 6 hours away. Dr. Susan Maki-Wallace, associate professor of anthropology and one of only four forensic anthropologists in Texas, said the team has had to put "some strange things" in their own vehicles after working on a case.

"This van will allow us to continue our work in a professional and secure manner," she said.

Maki-Wallace also noted that her students, accompanied by officers with the Waco Police Department, will walk with the van in the Baylor Homecoming parade on Saturday morning.

"We recently worked with the department on a case with about 50 of our students on long walk lines," she said. "The officers were very appreciative of our work."

Baylor's forensic science major, approved only a year ago, is the only forensic science undergraduate major offered in Texas and is one of the fastest growing majors at the university, with more than 100 students enrolled in the program. Students have had the opportunity to work with Maki-Wallace on several high-profile homocide cases, including recovering the remains of one of the victims of notorious serial killer Kenneth Allen McDuff.

"This is one of the hottest fields out there, and there is significant student interest in the field of forensic science," she said.

Maki-Wallace said the forensic science major provides a broad overview of the seven or eight subfields of forensic science - anthropology, sociology, biology, chemistry, mathematics, neuroscience, political science and physics. It also ensures, she said, that premed students receive hands-on medical field experience.

"If they decide not to go into medicine, these students can still get a good paying job with law enforcement agencies or criminal investigation agencies, such as the FBI," Maki-Wallace said. "I have some students who want to work at the crime scene, and others who can't wait to get out of medical school so they can become medical examiners."

In addition to substantial field and laboratory experiences, students will take a forensic anthropology laboratory course that examines criminal investigation techniques and a forensic anthropology capstone course that will require an internship with a medical examiner or other forensic science expert.

For more information, contact Maki-Wallace at 710-6226.

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