News - Forensics Conference Exceeds Expectations, Informs and Inspires

Forensics Conference Exceeds Expectations, Informs and Inspires

By Carla Morris


Hard science, psychology, decades of professional experience and a generous helping of engaging stories contributed to a successful forensics conference on Greenville University’s campus last Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14.

The University’s Departments of Biology, Chemistry and Criminal Justice hosted the event, which drew more than 200 attendees including students, community members and industry professionals.

Experts addressed aspects of investigative work both in the field and in laboratories. They also touched on the realities of politics, limited resources and decisions that complicate the collection, examination and analysis of physical evidence.

The conference exposed students to a broad range of roles, from precise DNA work in the lab to the grand challenge of overseeing thousands of workers. It also provided instances of inspiration for pursuing God’s call and making adjustments that lead to fulfilling life work. Here are three examples:

The “Still Small Voice”

John Pistole, former deputy director of the FBI and current president of AndersonPistole University (pictured at right), launched the conference on Friday evening, speaking from a 26-year career with the bureau and four years as head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency that employs 60,000 workers.

“God put me in some positions of leadership that I never aspired to,” he said, adding that God opened doors he had never dreamed of. He commended students to “listen for the still small voice of God,” respond in obedience and then “put your seat belt on” for what may turn into an unexpected adventure.

Restless Misfit

Forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Cumberland and physical scientist Rhonda Craig shared a common discovery early in their careers that could have been catastrophic. After significant medical training, the introvert Cumberland discovered his dislike for dealing with patients; steeped in studies of molecular biology and heart disease, Craig discovered she hated research.

The prospect of wasted money and wasted training loomed, but each found a fulfilling path in forensics.

Cumberland served more than 30 years as a medical examiner in Alabama and Florida. He performed over 4,500 autopsies, including over 350 homicides. He also testified as expert witness in over 300 court cases.

Craig took a position with the FBI’s DNA Unit in Washington DC and then qualified as a bloodstain pattern examiner. She has leant her expertise to cases in state, federal and international courts of law and served as unit chief of the Evidence Management Unit for the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC) section of the FBI’s lab.

“I love it,” she said of her ultimate “calling,” applying her expertise in science, genetics and molecular biology to criminal cases. 

Defying Predictions

After reviewing young Peter Smerick’s marked underachievement, his high school guidance counselor advised Peter to find work in the local mines; he would not succeed in college.

Smerick counts his military service as a combat photographer in Vietnam as key to turning his life around and leading to a long and distinguished career as profiler for violent crimes.

At Greenville U’s Forensic Conference, Smerick drew from his rich experiences to explain profilers’ work and methodologies, and their fastidious examination of physical evidence at crime scenes to learn about offenders’ behavior before, during and after their crimes.

“There’s never been a profile written that gives you the name and address of the killer or the rapist,” he said, but added that profilers have sometimes come remarkably close.

ThumbprintThank You, Conference Sponsors

The first annual Forensics Conference at Greenville University was made possible by generous funding from the Shimadzu Corporation. Additional sponsors included Hospital Sisters Health System, Ward’s Science, Carolina Biological Supply, Sodexo and Bond County Sherriff James D. Leitschuh.

Learn More

Criminal Justice at Greenville University
Forensics Minor Overview
To Protect and Serve: Criminal Justice and Life Calling

When you fund scholarships through a monthly gift to The Greenville University Fund, you empower students for lives of character and service through a transforming Christ-centered education. Click here to give, and thank you.

This story was published on April 18, 2018

Check Out These Related Majors/Minors

comments powered by Disqus
315 E. College Avenue
Greenville, Illinois 62246-1145
800.345.4440 / 618.664.7100
Contact Us © 2000-20 Greenville University. All rights reserved.
Greenville University is authorized to operate as a postsecondary educational institution by the Illinois Board of Higher Education
Accreditation | IBHE Complaint Form