Chemistry students active participants at forensic science conference

October 22, 2012
Teree T. Warren (left), a forensic scientist with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab in Milwaukee, along with UW-Platteville student Chelsea Johnson, display research findings.


PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Through a grant from the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement and support from chemistry faculty, ten University of Wisconsin-Platteville chemistry students showed off their research at the annual Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists Inc. Meeting Sept. 25-28 in Milwaukee, Wis. They students who participated included Kelsey Caya, Liisa Erita, Rebecca Hansen, Danielle Kielhofer, Emily Dames, Chelsea Johnson, Matt McDonald, Michelle Freund, Sara Karp and Amanda Marten.

Matt McDonald presents his research to a group of forensic scientists.


Dr. Charles Cornett, professor of chemistry and engineering physics and Dr. Joseph Wu, assistant professor of chemistry and engineering physics, accompanied the students. “This is great for students to sharpen their skills in terms of research and presenting their results to professionals in the field,” said Wu.

The meeting featured more than 250 forensic scientists. “Our success was a direct result of the volunteer efforts of many individuals including the UW-Platteville students,” said Sandra Koresch, fall meeting program chair in a letter to Dr. Wu. “The students were instrumental in helping us with the registration of our attendees, organizing our poster session, working as classroom helpers, and providing general assistance in many different areas. Additionally, it was great to see such overwhelming participation from the UW-Platteville students in presenting both posters and papers at our meeting. The sharing of information from research at the academic level is of great importance in our field. It is clear that the UW-Platteville program is making a contribution to the forensic field.”

A few of the UW-Platteville students who participated in the meeting included (left-right): Chelsea Johnson, Danielle Kielhofer, Amanda Marten, Rebecca Hansen, Emily Dames, and Kelsey Caya.


The students learned from a variety of presentations during the meeting. “Each presentation is equivalent to a criminalistics lecture and is very informative for our students to learn, enriching the student experience far beyond the traditional scope of the classroom,” said Wu.

The experience provided opportunities for students to learn from professionals in the field and to offer their own research findings. “We were able to meet many forensic scientists who work in the field,” said Matt McDonald, a senior chemistry major from Janesville, Wis. “We learned about their day-to-day activities and gained an important insight into a forensic career.”

“I really enjoyed interacting with people who have the same job that I hopefully will get after graduation,” said Chelsea Johnson, a senior chemistry major from New Richmond, Wis. “I also enjoyed listening to the presentations and learning about what everyone has accomplished.”

The UW-Platteville forensic science program is a partner with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab in Milwaukee. Students in the program conduct research and share their results with the crime lab, helping state officials with their methods. “We need hard core physical scientists working in crime labs,” said Cornett. “That’s what our program provides: a true chemistry degree.”

UW-Platteville students Kelsey Caya (second from left) and Michelle Freund (third from left) assist with registration.


The experience of learning about the hot topics in forensic science and being able to network with professionals was valuable for the students. “It gave me an insight into what they are looking for,” said McDonald. “Getting to know the current happenings in the field is pretty exciting.”

“I learned that an internship is probably the most valuable thing you can have as a student,” said Johnson, who completed an internship at the Wisconsin State Crime Lab. McDonald completed his internship at the IRS National Forensic Lab in Chicago, Ill.

At UW-Platteville, the criminalistics emphasis in chemistry is a four-year program that provides a strong preparation for employment or graduate studies in forensic science. The program includes interdisciplinary training in the examination and analysis of physical evidence and substantial coursework in criminal justice and biochemistry. This provides graduates with valuable cross-disciplinary experiences related to the field, including expert witness testimony. Currently, more than half of the chemistry majors are pursuing a criminalistics emphasis and a career in state crime labs.

Contact: Joseph Wu, Department of Chemistry and Engineering Physics, (608) 342-6018, and Dr. Charles Cornett, Department of Chemistry and Engineering Physics,

Written by: Dan Wackershauser, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194,


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