Science Club solves case of the missing dog

Published 10:49 pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

Joan Jones, the Suffolk Forensic Unit supervisor, prepares a swab to take a sample from a stain at a mock crime scene at Nansemond River High School. Jones visited the school’s science club Thursday to teach them about forensics.

Nansemond River High School students spent Thursday afternoon investigating a dog-napping.

School resource officer Andre Weaver’s Crime Line stuffed dog was stolen from his trophy case, and students in the school’s Science Club took on the job of collecting evidence.

Joan Jones, the Suffolk Forensic Unit supervisor, spent the afternoon with the students to explain what she does and let them experience collecting evidence firsthand.

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She talked to them about what she does before she led them through the mock crime science, explaining the differences between what they see depicted in shows like “CSI” and “NCIS” and sharing her experiences to give them an idea of what her job entails.

Jones also talked to them about the education required to become a forensic technician and discussed the different fields in the career, such as forensic psychology and entomology.

“Forensics is more than just CSI,” she said. “There are a lot of other fields you can go into.”

After her talk, Jones led the investigation of the burglary in Weaver’s office, reminding them of the rules.

“We always take one route in and one route out,” she said.

One student identified a “reddish colored stain” right by the officer’s door and marked it.

Another pointed out a flipped-over chair and a half-eaten Starburst candy on the desk.

Jones walked them through the steps she takes at real burglary crime scenes. She dusted the chair and trophy case for prints while a student helped her take as many photos as possible.

“Photos really do tell you a lot of stuff you might not have realized while you were there,” she said. “When you go to court 10 years later, your notes and photos will help jog your memory.”

Carol Ficklen, one of the science club sponsors, said she thought the forensic walk-through was a good way to demonstrate how science is utilized every day.

“I feel that the students need to have some real life experience with science and see what type of career opportunities might be available to them and how science is used on an everyday basis,” she said.

Ficklen said several of her students have expressed interest in forensics, and she hopes this experience gave them insight into the career.

“We want them to understand what it takes to enter that field and what will be expected of them if they get into the field,” she said.

Senior Ashleigh Aycox, the science club president, said she was surprised to hear Jones describe the differences between her job and what’s on TV.

“It was really interesting to be able to decipher between TV and what they do realistically,” she said.

Aycox said she was especially shocked to hear forensic techs can stay on a crime scene for hours.

Science Club secretary Jordan Morris, also a senior, said she enjoyed when Jones showed them the different equipment she used, including buccal swabs, which are used to collect DNA from the mouth.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “It was very enlightening.”

In addition to the experience of collecting evidence, the students also got a taste of Jones’ frustration when they couldn’t find out who stole the stuffed animal.

“Don’t worry,” Jones said with a laugh. “I’ll send this evidence to the lab, and maybe we’ll figure it out.”