Professional science academy honors Radford research team
A Radford University team of faculty and students was awarded the Ellis R. Kerley Award for excellence in the effort to research and develop methods of forensic identification.
Radford University Forensic Science Institute (RUFSI) Co-directors Cliff and Donna Boyd and students David Foley ‘15 and Sharon Roller were honored with the award at the 68th annual scientific meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) in Las Vegas Feb. 22-27.
Titled “Comparabilty of Macroscopic, Microscopic and Radiologically Defined Pediatric Antermortem Healing Stages,” the presentation caps a four-year RUFSI effort to help develop methodology to identify evidence of a pattern of child abuse, according to Cliff Boyd. The poster was selected from among 130 entrants in the anthropology section.
"It is quite an honor for the university and RUFSI to be recognized by our peers at the national level for the work being done here," Boyd said. "It was a complete shock."
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences has more than 7,000 members representing 11 sections spanning the forensic enterprise. As a professional society dedicated to the application of science to the law, AAFS membership includes practicing forensic scientists such as physicians, toxicologists, anthropologists, document examiners, digital evidence experts, engineers, criminalists and educators from the United States and 71 other countries.
Sharon Roller, a senior anthropological sciences major from Waldwick, New Jersey, said the experience validated her choice to come to Radford and follow a career path toward pediatric forensic anthropology.
"At the meeting, it was noticeable how few undergraduates were there and that there were fewer who presented research," said the 2016 SURF grant recipient and four-year Honors Academy student. “I was lucky on all sides - to be part of this important research, to have such great mentors and to contribute to an award-winning team.”
Cliff Boyd said the study could lead to RUFSI collaboration with state and local law enforcement and medical agencies in the development of a database to enhance investigators’ abilities to better identify victims of abuse and prosecute abusers.
"What is important is that the study points us toward being able to substantiate a pattern of child abuse by standardizing how evidence is interpreted," said Boyd, who called the project a true team effort.
The team collected and reviewed radiographic, or x-ray, views of bones from seven closed cases as well as related digital photography and microscopic views.
"All four of us had the realization that x-rays, the standard tool used to assess pediatric injury, did not always tell the story," Boyd said.
The Kerley Award-winning poster presentation was one of two Radford presentations at the event. In the Trauma and Etiology section, the Boyds and Roller also presented an oral presentation, titled "Pediatric Antemortem Healing Standards Based on Microscopic Analysis of Fractures in Known Forensic Child Abuse Cases."