March 2005

Faculty Feature

Dr. Susan Wallace

In October of 1999 Baylor University became the first institute of higher education in the country to offer the Bachelor of Science in forensic science as an interdisciplinary major, due in large part to the efforts of Dr. Susan Wallace, who now serves as director of the program.

Professor Wallace did not start out as a forensic scientist; she earned a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Physical Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin while working on the evolution of language in non-human primates. Her experience was called on in a new way following the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in the spring of 1993 when law enforcement officials requested her expertise as a skeletal biologist during the ensuing investigation. Dr. Wallace has since had her contributions to the city and state formally recognized by people as diverse as the Texas Rangers, then Texas Governor George W. Bush and former Baylor chancellor Herbert Reynolds.

It was a long struggle after her first experiences with forensic science to the formation of the program which she now directs, but the forensic science major has become a nationally-recognized part of Baylor's curriculum. The program is still housed in the O'Grady building, separated from the rest of the campus by LaSalle Avenue, and has only recently been painted, expanded, and marked as the Baylor forensics lab. Despite a shoestring budget and out-of-the-way facilities, Dr. Wallace's forensic science training has been in increasing demand ever since she graduated more than twice the number of students Baylor had required during the program's first few years.

The Bachelor of Science in forensic science is a multidisciplinary program that provides hands-on exposure to the human body as well as the experience of working out in the field to an increasing number of Baylor undergraduates, and covers all of the sections prescribed by the American Academy of Forensic Science. Most significantly, it has become the model for a burgeoning number of undergraduate majors in forensic science, and has demonstrated the commitment of professors like Susan Wallace to providing an extraordinary level of academic experience and training to the undergraduate student body.