Students looking to pursue careers in the forensic sciences must be highly trained in recovery, analyses and interpretation of forensic evidence. Experience is essential to securing a job in the forensics field, whether the position is working in crime labs or as part of a crime scene investigation unit.
These are classroom experiences students get at RU. The classes are led by dynamic duo Donna and Cliff Boyd, award-winning teaching and research colleagues who are also husband and wife.
Donna Boyd is a U.S. Professor of the Year (2006), a distinction held by only three other faculty members from any institution in Virginia. Cliff was named “Professional Archaeologist of the Year” by the Archaeological Society of Virginia in 1998. Each has received a Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, the highest honor given to educators at Virginia colleges and universities. Both are adjunct members of the Virginia State Medical Examiner’s Office, through which they assist with investigations involving skeletal remains.
The Boyds, who are co-directors of RU’s Forensic Science Institute, parlay their renown into opportunities for their students to participate in the field, the laboratory and the classroom. They mentor students and supervise their internships with federal and state agencies. Last year, the Boyds, along with physics professor Rhett Herman, led students to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, where the group searched for the remains of U.S. Marines missing in action since World War II. “The experience of the field work at Guadalcanal was invaluable to the students who went on the trip,” Donna Boyd said.
Since returning from Guadalcanal, Cliff, an anthropologist and historian, has conducted valuable historic research, talking with numerous military veterans and experts. He has gained a plethora of knowledge that may lead the Boyds and another group of RU students to the graves of the fallen soldiers when they return to Guadalcanal.
In the next 18 months, Donna, through a grant awarded to the Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office from the National Institute of Justice, will begin examining the numerous unidentified human remains in the state’s western district. As one of the few forensic anthropologists in the Commonwealth, Donna was selected to take DNA samples from the remains and enter the information into an FBI database in hopes of matching those remains to some of the nation’s 13,000+ missing persons. Students may provide assistance on this project, too.
“There are always opportunities for students to develop expertise through analyzing skeletal remains in the lab and, for advanced students, through assisting in criminal investigations,” Donna said. “Experiences in the lab and in the field give the students valuable and unique career preparation.”