From the Dean's Desk -- February 14, 2013

Chemistry Major Selected for Prestigious Forensics Internship with Naval Criminal Investigative Service

Cristina Spicher, a junior chemistry major with a forensic science minor, has always known she wanted to work in forensics. She says her favorite television show in high school was NCIS, and she remembers telling her parents she wanted to be Abby, the main character on the show.  The show NCIS, a police drama, revolves around a team of special agents in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which conducts criminal investigations involving the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

During high school, the Virginia Beach native was nominated as a scholar for the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and Crime Scene Investigations in Washington, D.C.  During the forum, she attended seminars, worked on an actual case file, and presented a Supreme Court case by gathering evidence from a crime scene to presenting her findings in "court." 

"I believe that after that summer, there was absolutely no doubt what my future would be," says Spicher. She continued pursuing her interest in forensics at Radford by taking Forensic Research 201 and Advanced Forensic Research 401 with forensic anthropology professor and co-director of RU's Forensic Science Institute Donna Boyd. "Last semester I conducted my own research determining the longevity of latent fingerprints between children, teens and adults. I have also looked into research concerning the age of a bloodstain," says Spicher.

With her faculty mentor Donna Boyd's encouragement, she researched internships at the government agency and found the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Honors Internship Program on its website. "NCIS has been my goal and ambition for many years, and as a top agency in the country, would be an exceptional place to work," says Spicher. 

She completed the application and interview process and was awarded one of the agency's prestigious internships for this summer at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Field Office in Norfolk, Va.  "Being a part of their team will not only be an honor, but an unbelievable opportunity as well.  I will assist with command briefs, accompany the NCIS field office personnel during ship port visits, assist in various administrative and professional areas, and basically go wherever they go," says Spicher.

Spicher's goal is to become a successful forensic chemist for a government agency, and with the help of NCIS, will obtain valuable hands-on experience. She says, "of course, I hope they are so thrilled with my work ethic and abilities that they want to keep me!"


Public Radio Program With Good Reason Features Faculty Member Justin Anderson


Assistant Professor of Biology Justin Anderson

Biology faculty member Justin Anderson was interviewed by the National Public Radio show With Good Reason regarding his research about coffee and mosquitoes.

To prevent spreading the mosquito-borne La Crosse virus, which can cause encephalitis, primarily in children, Anderson conducted a two-year research project to determine whether coffee extracts interfere with the replication of the virus or simply kill the pestiferous mosquitoes.

The radio show featuring Anderson will air on RU's WVRU 89.9 fm on Tuesday, March 5 at 6 p.m. For more information about the program and air times visit With Good Reason's website.

Red Bats, Feral Cats and Bears, Oh My!

In January, biology faculty member Karen Francl and research students Nikohl Miller and Devon Silva spoke at a meeting of the Virginia Master Naturalists, New River Valley Chapter. As the invited speakers, the trio presented, "Red Bats and Feral Cats and Bears, Oh My! Recent Surveys at the Radford Arsenal." Francl spoke of on-going survey projects at the Radford Arsenal, which included summer bat surveys and summer and fall surveys for bobwhite quail on the Dublin property.

Miller and Silva  presented preliminary results from their research project, which involves a six-month survey of Arsenal property using wildlife camera traps. To date, more than 75,000 animal images have been captured on-camera. Silva and Miller have documented 14 mammalian species including coyote, black bear, mink, and feral cats, and 12 avian species including the double-crested cormorant, which had never been detected on-property in 15 years of bird surveys.

The two biology majors will again be presenting their findings in this month at the annual meeting of the Virginia chapter of The Wildlife Society (VATWS). Five other students also will be presenting their research at the upcoming conference.



CSAT STEM Club visits the RU Museum of the Earth Sciences during one of its regularly scheduled meetings.

In February, the CSAT STEM Club is sponsoring a canned food drive. Boxes for canned food donations are located around campus in Reed, Young, Davis, and Walker Halls.

On February 23, the CSAT STEM Club will be volunteering for the College of Science and Technology's  Open House. Volunteers are in charge of setting up, cleaning up, talking to perspective students about the CSAT disciplines, and directing people where to go. The Open House will last from 1:30-4:30 p.m.

The club will be going to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. on April 13 for its spring trip. The cost is $15 per person and registration forms may be picked up at our club meetings or from Dr. Laura Jacobsen in Peters Hall. Anyone who is a major in a STEM discipline may attend.

The Director of Software Development from Rackspace will be a guest speaker on Thursday, March 28 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in Reed Hall, room 201. More information will be available as we get closer to the date.
We look forward to seeing both new and old members at our meetings and at our events!

Jasmine Jackson
CSAT STEM Club Secretary