Education - Page 8 - Tech in sciences, from page 1

- Page 8
Tech in sciences, from page 1
be made of the scene, complete photographs taken and then the careful collection of evidence, making sure not to lose the train of custody. The collected evidence must be processed, documented and a report written.” “From the first class we learn actual investigative techniques and are given opportunities to practice processing evidence,” says Katie Klos, a senior who will be graduating in December 2017. “We are evaluated based on our completion of collecting and testing evidence from a mock crime scene.”

With her connections with the Baltimore County Police Department, Kollmann’s students are often called in to do searches on cold cases and well as current ones. “My students are trained and vetted by me, so the department knows they will do a good job,” says Kollmann. “The students gain experience and can use the evidence they
collect to build a portfolio to use when they look for a job.”

“I’ve always appreciated the hands-on experience of Dr. Kollmann’s classes,” says Klos. “I have learned how to identify human remains, collect fingerprints, analyze blood spatter, and I’ve done extensive work with skeletal remains.” Klos has had many opportunities to work in the field: “I’ve had a ride along with a state trooper, participated in a wet lab with the Anatomy Gifts Registry and worked on a number of active crime scenes assisting local law enforcement in the recovery of remains.”

Kollmann’s students not only get experience at crime scenes, but they often use the experience they gain to get internships in their field of interest. With the experience they receive and the portfolio they build, they do not have difficulty getting a job after graduation. Some students have gone on to law enforcement careers or with the FBI or the immigration department. For those with an interest and background in chemistry, Towson also offers a master’s in forensics, and some students have continued in that direction.

For experience in another kind of science, students at Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) not only study bacteria, but also contribute to research into the
worldwide problem of bacteria that are becoming resistant to antibiotics. “We are the first university in Maryland to become part of the Small World Initiative (SWI) that started in 2012 at Yale,” says Jennifer Kerr, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at NDMU.

The SWI is a program where undergraduate students test bacteria found in soil samples in hopes of finding new strains that can be used in the development of new antibiotics. “It is a unique opportunity for students to collect soil, bring it to the lab and learn the techniques to isolate the bacteria and screen them to see if they can be used to make an antibiotic,” says Kerr.

“Students learn to identify the genetic material of the bacteria under a microscope and also how to learn about their DNA. These first- and second-level students then use databases to figure out what the bacteria is,” continues Kerr. “The information they gather is shared among the other schools around the world who are participating in this program.”

Collaboration is great between schools in the program, often lending equipment when necessary. “Students gather their soil from wherever they want – at home, on campus, wherever. After the bacteria are isolated and identified, it can be frozen for later use,” says Kerr.

With the experience her upper level students gain, they do posters and present their research on campus and at the Small World Initiative. “This is great experience for them if they plan to continue their education in the sciences,” says Kerr, “and they also have the opportunity to be a research assistant in my lab. It gives the students an idea how it will work in real life.

“This is a new program, but I am really excited about this as it is a way to get more women interested and engaged in the sciences,” says Kerr. “The interest level for this program is really high, and is especially important for the nursing student population to learn about antibiotic resistance and clinical trials.” •

STEM opportunities for women

It is nothing new that technology in all its various forms has become an integral part of every science nowadays. From the ubiquitous computer to the microscope to the camera to the growing field of robotics, technology is here to stay. As a student, it means gaining a wide and varied set of skills besides math and science to back them up.

At the Maryland Robotics Center at the University of Maryland, engineering and biology students collaborate on research into robots of all sizes, including robots that mimic insects and other animals. Students in engineering, biology and other sciences collaborate in this work. High school and undergraduate students also can participate in
programs at the center.

The study of forensics uses a wide range of technology to gather, analyze and record evidence at a crime scene. From a knowledge of chemistry to photography, to skill in collecting evidence, it is a field requiring a variety of techniques best learned by doing. Towson University offers its forensics students the knowledge and experience to get a good job or go on to graduate school.

By joining the Small World Initiative, Notre Dame of Maryland University has given its biology students a new opportunity while learning about bacteria. What they learn is being shared with other schools around the world for development of new antibiotics to combat strains of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. The skills students learn in the process can transfer to jobs or further study and research.

For women in science, there are more opportunities than ever. Lena Roberts, Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, who is working on the Robo Raven project at the Maryland Robotics Center advises, “Students need to learn how to learn math and science, and how to use it. It’s OK to fail. Just stick to it.” •

Above left: Towson University student Jake Arnold documenting evidence in a vehicle.