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University of Central Oklahoma's Forensic Science Institute has grown to more than 500 students

The Forensic Science Institute opened in 2009 with about 100 students. Currently, more than 500 students are enrolled in either undergraduate or graduate studies.
by Bryan Painter Published: October 15, 2012

But after working the scene using what the FBI calls a 12-step process, the students returned to the classroom where Mabry, an assistant professor at the Forensic Science Institute and in the School of Criminal Justice, talked about sketching and diagramming.

Mabry retired after 23 years with the FBI, including work in the Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit. He and Wayne Lord, associate professor at the institute, were profilers at Quantico.

Different from TV

Mabry agrees television shows are a motivator for many students to study forensic science or criminal profiling.

In class, students occasionally mention an episode they saw the night before and perhaps a technique that was used.

“You kind of have to remind them that is Hollywood and everything's solved in 60 minutes, and that's not quite the way it works,” he said.

“The same with the crime scene, they watch ‘CSI,' and they see some techniques on TV, some of which are doable, some which are not. Most of which are not doable in 60 minutes.

“However, it motivates them to come here.”

Adams said the Forensic Science Institute is attracting interest from students not only from across the United States but also from other countries, including China and Germany.

And some potential employers are calling the institute directly to let them know of openings, he said.

“When you look at why the forensics institute is successful,” Adams said, “in addition to faculty, there are the facilities which are dedicated to forensic science training. Then on top of those factors are friends like the OSBI Crime Lab right across the street and the AT&T Cyber Security & Digital Evidence Laboratory right here in our building. Those are law enforcement working labs that allow our students to do internships and to get the benefit of seeing real-life law enforcement work.”

Kacey Brown, 23, of Oklahoma City, is a first-year graduate student focusing on forensic anthropology and osteology. Like Burgess, it wasn't TV shows that ignited Brown's interest.

“I've just always loved forensics since ninth grade, and I did my undergraduate in forensic anthropology, as well,” Brown said.

“I hope to work for the FBI one day, doing forensic anthropology, doing exhumations, things like that.”

A changed perspective

After completing her undergraduate work, Burgess wants to go to law school and some day use her forensic background for prosecution.

By that time, she'll have analyzed plenty of situations, both in and out of the classroom.

“Especially even in real life, I'm always looking for the small details,” she said. “Every time I drive past a car wreck, I want to figure out what happened. Or even hearing stories on the news, there are certain things that I've learned that make me automatically kind of go one way or the other.

“So it's definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things.”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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