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Marshall Forensic Students on Top Again

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Marshall University

For the fifth time in eight years the Marshall University Forensic Science Graduate Program earned the highest overall test scores in the country.

The Marshall Forensic Science Graduate Program attracts students from all over the country. Take for instance Mackenzie Kilkeary, whose fondness for forensic science started with a weekly viewing of a NCIS.

It’s one of the many programs on TV that have produced what the forensic science administrators call the CSI effect.

“I think that sparks a lot of people’s interest in the forensic sciences and gives you a perspective on what we do and yeah NCIS was one of many favorite shows when I was a kid and I still watch it, but it is very different to see how different this experience is, you can’t just go into the lab and twenty minutes later everything is done, but I think it does play a role how important forensic science and the different fields of forensic science is,” Kilkeary said.

By the time students get to the graduate program they realize the real field isn’t as simple or quick as the way the shows make it look. It’s one of the reasons why the field is growing. Lauren Waugh is an assistant professor that teaches forensic chemistry.

“I see in lecture very often when I’m teaching a concept and especially recently with Breaking Bad because I teach all about drug chemistries, I will get many hands raised and they’ll say that’s not how they did it on Breaking Bad, you mean they were wrong,” Waugh said. “They were joking and they understand that this is not the correct way to do things.”

Each year the American Board of Criminalistics offers a test for graduating seniors, where Marshall succeeded.  

  • Marshall students captured the first and second rankings for highest overall test results.
  • There were among 202 students from 16 other forensic science programs that participated.
  • Of the top 26 highest test scores, six were Marshall students.

Students in the program go into fields that:

  • Examine DNA
  • Work in digital forensics
  • Examine drugs that come in as evidence
  • Work as toxicologists
  • Work as trace analysts that study gunshot residue or even fire debris. 

Terry Fenger is the director of the program, he said because of the CSI effect and other factors, the field is growing and becoming more competitive.
“There is a lot of competition, as the CSI effect has taken hold many universities have developed these programs, so in order to be highly competitive for these positions we have to have a high ranking amongst many and that’s essentially what we’ve achieved,” Fenger said.

Fenger said they encourage students to take their knowledge upon graduate and work in the state, but he says so many of the students are from all over the country, so they prefer to take their experience back to where they’re from.


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