Teen investigators use science to solve crime at Lipscomb University’s In Cold Blood: Forensic Science Academy

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As “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and other forensic science TV shows continually captivate young science-driven minds, Lipscomb University has created an opportunity for local middle and high school students to “peak behind the curtain” and become a scientist themselves with its In Cold Blood: Forensic Science Academy.

CSI_Academy_Side1From July 24-27, 27 sixth- through 12th-grade students were tapped as the lead investigators to solve the break-in and “murder” of a renowned scientist at Lipscomb’s annual chemistry camp that teaches students the ins and outs of forensic science.

“This year’s murder involved genetic engineering and tampering with chocolate in what we called, ‘Death by Chocolate,’” said Linda Phipps, director of Lipscomb’s annual chemistry camp. “Campers were the lead investigators in solving the murder of Dr. Curt Jones, who discovered one team within a collegiate Jen and Berry’s ice cream competition, had used genetically modified ingredients. Campers were tasked to solve the murder with the evidence they collected, using Lipscomb’s state-of-the-art DNA technology as well as other analytical techniques in forensic science they learned throughout the week.” 

During the non-residential camp, students investigated a mock crime scene, collected and analyzed physical evidence including fingerprints, DNA, blood splatter and hair follicles as well as interviewed suspects.

They also visited the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and used some of the same methods state investigators use in their cases, such as gel electrophoresis, where they use an electric field to separate the parts of DNA to see patterns unique to the different suspects.

CSI_Academy_Side2By the end of the camp, students presented their findings to a jury in a mock trial, where they uncovered the murderer of the renowned scientist and brought the criminal to justice.  

Phipps, who teaches a yearlong forensic science class at Lipscomb University, says these campers are using the same technology, processes and critical thinking skills that real forensic scientists, as well as her college students, use.     

“Our hope with this summer camp is that students are excited about science early on and think that science is something fun to do,” said Phipps. “My role is to help teach them what they’re doing, help guide them in the critical thinking process and help them see how the science works. This camp is a way to focus on the fun-problem solving parts of science and it’s fun to see them work through the evidence to solve the crime, year-after-year.”

Housed in the College of Liberal Arts & Science, Lipscomb’s Department of Chemistry offers various degrees in chemistry and biochemistry. Learn more, today!