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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI Forensic Science Partnership announces fall seminar series

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

To feature CBS News producer, best-selling novelist

KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 16, 2005 -- The University of Rhode Island Forensic Science Partnership’s semester-long seminar series will feature a 1976 URI journalism graduate who is now a CBS News producer and best-selling novelist as part of the 10-lecture program.

Now in its sixth year, the public lecture series will address such topics as trace evidence, DNA fingerprinting, computer forensics, pharmaceutical tampering, explosives and the role of teamwork in forensic investigations.
All seminars are held on Fridays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Pastore Hall, Room 124.

The Oct. 14 lecture will feature Mary Jane Behrends Clark, a 1976 URI journalism graduate and now CBS News producer and best-selling author of media thriller novels. Her topic will be “Forensics and Fiction: A Little Knowledge Can be a Dangerous Thing.”

Since her first novel in 1998, she has won kudos for transforming her television news experience into action and intrigue in seven books. Booklist said: "Clark has perfected the suspense novel, where in classic Christie fashion everyone is a potential suspect." Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather calls Clark "one of the most exciting novelists in America".

She was a recipient of a 2005 URI Alumni Achievement Award. Her seventh book, Hide Yourself Away, is set in Newport, R.I. Her eighth, Dancing in the Dark, was released in August.

Eric Stauffer, a senior forensic scientist with MME Forensic Services in Suwanee, Ga., will begin the seminar series today, Sept. 16, with this talk: “Examination of Automotive Light Bulbs: An Important Step in Road Accident Investigations.”

When road accidents occur at night or in other low light conditions, the issue of whether the lights of the vehicles were on at the time of the accident can arise. Stauffer said in such instances it is possible to collect the headlights and/or taillights of the vehicles and proceed to their complete forensic examination to determine if they were on. This seminar will present the examination of auto light bulbs from their collection at the scene to their observation at the laboratory using regular light macroscopy and scanning electron microscopy, as well as the interpretation of the results. The lecture will conclude with the presentation of a complex and interesting case that is sure to entertain.

Stauffer has been involved in forensic sciences for more than nine years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic sciences at the School of Forensic Science and Criminology at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. While earning his master’s degree at Florida International University in Miami, he focused on fire investigations. Stauffer is a fellow of the American Board of Criminalistics. He has been a crime scene officer, firearms and tool marks examiner, fire scene investigator and fire debris analyst. He is currently teaching an introduction to forensic sciences course at Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkson, Ga.

The schedule of speakers and their topics is as follows:

• Sept. 23, Axriel Gorski, assistant professor, forensic science
coordinator of the Undergraduate Forensic Program at the University of New Haven, “Trace Evidence, Modern and Ancient.”

• Sept. 30, Beth Zielinski-Habershaw, co-coordinator Biotechnology Manufacturing Program at URI’s Providence Campus and adjunct assistant professor at Brown University, “Molecular Techniques &PCR.”

• Oct. 7, Illa Simmons, trace evidence, additional information was still being compiled by the Forensic Science Partnership at the time of this release.

• Oct. 14, Mary Jane Behrends Clark, “Forensics and Fiction: A Little Knowledge Can be a Dangerous Thing.”

• Oct. 21, Victor Faye Wolfe, a URI professor of computer science and statistics who was one of the creators of a computer forensics program at URI, “Computer Forensics.”

• Oct. 28, Robert Cody, of JEOL, a leading global supplier of scientific instruments used for research and development in the fields of nanotechnology, life sciences, optical communication, forensics, and biotechnology, “Mass Spectrometry: An Essential Forensic Tool.”

• Nov. 4, Kirk Yeager, FBI Explosives Unit, “The Post-Blast Scene: Big Cases, Big Headaches.”
• Nov. 18, Frank Platek of the Food and Drug Administration, “Pharmaceutical Tampering and Counterfeiting.”

Dec. 2, speaker and topic to be announced.

Dec. 9, Donna Brandelli, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office, “Case Studies in Teamwork: An Essential Element of Major Crime Scene Investigations.”