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CSI: Milledgeville

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University’s forensics program the first in Middle Georgia

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Like their heroes on TV crime shows, Georgia College students will soon be able to do a little scientific sleuthing of their own.

They’ll be able to detect explosive TNT residue, analyze DNA fingerprints, determine drug usage from a strand of hair and identify signatures by the type of ink or pen used.

Demand for these kinds of skills is rising, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects a 14 percent growth in entry-level forensic science jobs through 2028. In recent years, chemistry professors at Georgia College also noted increased student curiosity about criminal analysis. This prompted a new concentration in forensic chemistry, the first of its kind in Middle Georgia.

“Drawing on the strengths of Georgia College’s liberal arts mission, our forensic chemistry concentration is designed as an interdisciplinary program bringing together chemistry, biology and criminal justice to prepare students for the field of study,” said Dr. Chavonda Mills, chair of chemistry, physics and astronomy. “Beyond the classroom, students will have the opportunity to engage in innovative forensic research in our new state-of-the-art Integrated Science Complex, as well as explore internship opportunities to apply what they’ve learned. This holistic approach will fully prepare students to enter a professional career immediately following graduation.”

Two main forensic courses are planned for next spring. Six Georgia College students are busy producing lab experiments to go along with topics covered in class, like DNA fingerprinting; analysis of body fluids for drugs; hair analysis for metal poisoning and drug abuse; and detection of explosives. All lab work requires an understanding of sample collection, data analysis and proper usage of science instruments and equipment.

Junior chemistry major Emily Pitts of Griffin is working to combine blood and drug samples into one experiment that tests blood-splatter patterns and drug or iron levels in the body. Someday, Pitts would like to work for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“It’s a good feeling” she said, “knowing I’m helping to build coursework that’s going to be here even after I graduate, and I had a piece in that.”

– Contributed by Georgia’ College’s Office of Communications