Training Scholarship Fund
OPEN APPLICATION PERIOD: JANUARY 1ST, 2020 - DECEMBER 31ST, 2020
The Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists (NEAFS) is proud to offer its members a Training Scholarship Fund (TSF). Members in good standing are eligible to receive up to $400 towards training, workshop or non-NEAFS meeting registration and travel expenses. Individuals will only be allowed reimbursement once per application period. Any NEAFS Annual Meeting expenses are ineligible to receive funding. Reimbursement will occur upon receipt of a certificate showing successful attendance and completion of the course along with an article summarizing the course for the NEAFS newsletter.
Applicants must submit a Pre-Approval Application prior to attending the training for which they wish to obtain funding. All applications must be complete with a brief course description, statement as to how the applicant will benefit from attending the training and justification for receiving funding (i.e. insufficient employer funding or continuing education requirements).
Notification will be given to each applicant upon receipt of the Pre-Approval Application. This notification lets the applicant know that their submission has been received by the Awards Chair at NEAFS and is being reviewed. Applicants can expect to be informed of the acceptance or rejection of their application within 60 days of receiving this Pre-Approval Application notification.
Upon successful attendance and completion of the training, all pre-approved applicants must submit a Reimbursement Application along with supporting documentation. Whenever possible, a certificate should be provided as proof of attendance and completion. If a certificate is not issued, or is unavailable, a letter from the organizer/ instructor verifying the applicant's successful attendance and completion shall suffice. Each Training Scholarship Fund recipient is required to contribute to NEAFS and its members by publishing a written article in the Newsletter. Reimbursement Applications will only be considered complete when accompanied by a 1000-word (minimum) course summary.
Members Who Have Taken Advantage of the Training Scholarship Fund
Dr. Andrew Schweighardt used the scholarship fund to subsidize the costs of attending the 72nd AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting in Anaheim, CA.
72nd AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting
By: Dr. Andrew Schweighardt
I am grateful to the NEAFS Travel Scholarship Fund which helped to subsidize the costs of attending the 72nd AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting in Anaheim, CA. I work at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) where my job often concentrates on missing persons identification and the role that DNA plays in mass disaster response. These responsibilities were on my mind when I planned my first day at the conference. I started the day attending a breakfast seminar on “Ethno-Cultural and Religious Considerations in the Management of the Dead.” This may not be a topic that ordinarily receives a lot of attention from forensic scientists, but it is certainly something that might be relevant in mass fatalities occurring in diverse areas such as New York City. I followed that up with a workshop on “Mass Disasters and Disaster Victim Identification (DVI).” DVI is a field that is becoming increasingly more organized, largely in
response to government oversight calling for standardization. This workshop included my favorite topic – DNA – but also featured other speakers that offered a reminder about all the other modalities of identification such as odontology, fingerprints, and anthropology. Overall my first day left me feeling very well informed about trends and developments in the scientific response to disasters.
With a little time to relax before the scientific sessions began, I started the next day with an early morning swim at the hotel pool. I really enjoyed this, and it gave me a good opportunity to stretch my rather large frame after being compressed in a tiny airline seat on the long flight out west. I went to the Academy Cup to cheer on the Criminalistics team as they answered forensic science trivia questions. They placed in the top three teams, but unfortunately were not the leading team. Later that day I attended the Criminalistics Luncheon, followed by the AAFS Annual Business Meeting. This was a special meeting for me because I was promoted to Fellow. I originally joined AAFS as a Student Affiliate and aspiring forensic scientist years ago, and I am grateful for all that the Academy (and NEAFS) has done to foster my professional growth. Feeling like I needed to celebrate, I spent time that evening with some great friends at the John Jay College Reception. I proudly consider John Jay to be one of the cornerstones of my forensic science background, and I am always eager to reminisce about the good old days as a Bloodhound.
The next day or two was a blur of posters and talks in the Criminalistics session. Based on the future direction of forensic biology, I was particularly drawn to talks covering Rapid DNA and Massively Parallel Sequencing. I tried my best to attend a few talks of former students in my Molecular Biology class at John Jay. Some of the topics were the use of a vacuum to collect DNA from paper documents (Christian Hopkins), the analysis of stamp pad inks (Swetha Rajagopal), and the identification of opioids using LC/MS/MS (Natalia Platosz). In an effort to further broaden my horizons beyond DNA and support some current or former colleagues, I also attended interesting talks on the examination of bones and cartilage in cases of neck trauma (Christopher Rainwater), anthropological investigations in migrant deaths (Angela Soler), the detection of art fraud and counterfeiting (Nicholas Petraco), and optimizing a workflow for paper evidence (Ashley Morgan). The variety of topics covered at an AAFS meeting perfectly illustrates one of the primary benefits for attending a conference that so broadly captures many disciplines.
This AAFS meeting also gave me the opportunity to serve as a moderator again. One who serves in this capacity acts as the primary liaison between the session chairs and the speakers. Most of us see the moderators as the masters of ceremony who keep the presentations flowing smoothly. However, like many service positions in professional organizations, there is often much that goes on behind the scenes. It is through the moderators that powerpoint files are filtered to the Academy laptops, last-minute questions from speakers are fielded, and speaker biographies are collected. I highly recommend service as a moderator to any rising stars in the Academy, as it provides great networking opportunities and public speaking experience, not to mention giving back to the Academy and strengthening any future applications for promotion in the Academy. At this particular meeting, my assignment to the session on “Non-Human DNA” seemed an appropriate placement based on my graduate research on bacterial DNA. There were some very interesting talks on the recovery of human DNA from bird eggs and feathers (Georgina Meakin), the use of pyrosequencing for species identification (Mirna Ghemrawi), a SINE-based assay for species identification (James Liang), using environmental DNA to characterize biological communities (Hillary Eaton), developing human DNA profiles from sections of the mosquito midgut (Mollie Comella), signatures of suicide in the human postmortem microbiome (Katelyn Smiles), changes in the microbial signature of human samples (Denise Wohlfahrt), and multidisciplinary efforts to identify a cat killer (Jeremiah Garrido, Christina Lindquist, and Michelle Bell). Being focused on human nuclear DNA for my main job, it is easy to forget that so many other sources of DNA may be relevant to forensic science. These speakers all did a terrific job of reminding the audience that it’s not all about humans.
To keep riding the momentum of reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, I attended a reunion for former Visiting Scientists of the FBI Laboratory. This was a major highlight of my early career. Living and working in Quantico, Virginia was a wonderful experience that allowed me to gain firsthand knowledge of one of the world’s greatest crime laboratories. I learned a great deal of new things at the FBI Lab and I am grateful to have been able to publish some of the work I did there. My experience there provided me with a strong foundation on which I have built a career as a forensic biologist at OCME. Seeing all the familiar faces at this reunion brought back lots of fond memories. It was also humbling to be included in a group that counts Forensic Biology legends such as John Butler among its ranks.
For me the highlight of every AAFS conference is, and always will be, the Believe It Or Not session. This is where speakers can shed the formal restrictions imposed on them in the scientific sessions and design a forensic science talk with one thing in mind – pure entertainment. Talks here are often judged not by their technical details but by the shock value of the story. The lineup of speakers did not disappoint. The audience learned about Mickey and his connection to USACIL (Chris Taylor), Porky Pig and the Butcher (Barry Fisher), Disney Imagineering (Ben Schwegler), Forensic Science in Comics (Michelle Miranda), Drugs in Dizzyland (Adriana D’Armas), Big Bad Wolf and Electrocution (Helmut Brosz), and BLEVE it or not (Peter Diaczuk). I also gave a talk in this session about a homicide and dismemberment case that OCME worked on in NYC.
On a serious note, I want to share a fond remembrance of my former OCME colleague, Dr. Noelle Umback. I learned of Noelle’s passing the day of my arrival in Anaheim. It was shocking to me, as Noelle had been a major fixture at AAFS conferences, and it was hard to imagine one without her. I will always remember Noelle for her professionalism and the dedication that she had to her work. I think the best way we can honor her is to carry on the commitment to the Academy which was so important to Noelle.
In closing, let me again express my profound gratitude to NEAFS for helping to make my trip to Anaheim possible. It was a very worthwhile conference and I’m glad I didn’t miss it. NEAFS was the first professional organization that I ever joined and I will always regard it as a major stepping stone in my career. In my opinion, the relatively small financial commitment required to join NEAFS is a bargain in light of the many rewards it offers. Thank you NEAFS!
Beth Saucier Goodspeed used the scholarship fund to subsidize the costs of attending the 72nd AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting in Anaheim, CA.
72nd AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting
By: Beth Saucier Goodspeed
During the week of Feb. 24, 2020, I attended the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Anaheim, CA. During this meeting, I attended workshops, lectures and seminars. Not only does this meeting provide information during the week, but it also provides an opportunity to meet people from all over the world that practice in the field of Forensic Science. I look forward to attending this meeting every year since it provides a wonderful experience and I always come back with new information.
This year, NEAFS was able to provide funding to me so I could attend breakfast and luncheon seminars that were not funded by my current job. When I attend any workshop or meeting, I want to get as much out of it as I can and NEAFS allowed me to do this at this year’s AAFS meeting.
The first Breakfast Seminar that I attended was entitled “The Working Stiffs: Writing and Publishing the Experiences of a Forensic Pathologist in Both Fiction and Non-Fiction”. This seminar was given by Judy Melinek, MD and T.J. Mitchell, BA who are a husband and wife writing team. Dr. Melinek has served as a pathologist in New York City as well as other cities. She has used her experiences to write a fiction book entitled First Cut. Her husband, Mr. Mitchell was an English major in college so he uses his knowledge and skills to edit her writing to make it suitable for publishing. They have also written a nonfiction book entitled Working Stiff. This is also based on her experiences and speaks about what it is really like to be a forensic pathologist. They wanted to educate the public about real life to dispel the misgivings of some of the forensic science shows on TV. Dr. Melinek also has her own blog and she has also written a column in Forensic Magazine.
The second Breakfast Seminar that I attended was entitled “Is a Soldier’s Combat Stress a Reason to Commit Five Murders?” This seminar was given by T. L. Williams MFS, Rick Malone MD, Phillip Curran MFS, Angel L. Miles MA, and Celia Gallo MFS. This seminar was about a soldier that was serving in Iraq who was having difficulties with coping in his current environment. He was seeking help at the Combat Stress Center. The speakers provided a background on this soldier. On a day of an appointment, he proceeded to enter the Stress Center with a loaded gun that he took from another officer and proceeded to shoot and killed five US service members. He also attempted to kill two other officers before he was apprehended. Virtual crime scenes as well as actual crime scene photographs were presented to show the actions that occurred on that fateful day.
The first Luncheon seminar that I attended was entitled “The Disappearance and Murder of Sierra LaMar: A Multidisciplinary Case Study”. This seminar was presented by Melissa A. Dupee MSFS and Michelle L. Bell, BA. This seminar was about fifteen year old Sierra LaMar who was kidnapped and murdered. Her body was never recovered. Information in regards to the events of the day she was kidnapped as well as the time period following the kidnapping was described. They spoke about the crime scene search in the surrounding areas, the examination of the suspect’s vehicle, and the search to find Sierra’s body. The serology and DNA testing of the items were also presented in detail by the forensic scientist that performed the analysis. Trace materials also played a role in this case and the scientist’s findings were discussed. The court case was also described as well as the outcome of the trial.
The second Luncheon seminar that I attended was entitled “Fingerprinting the Brain: Mind, Memories, and Malingering.” This seminar was presented by Charles Scott, Jorien Campbell MD, Gary Ciuffetelli MD, Ambarin Faizi, DO and Bethany Hughes. This seminar detailed how brain waves collected by an EEG can be used to determine if a suspect is telling the truth or lying about a crime that he may or may not have been involved in. Electrodes are attached to the brain of the subject to collect the brain wave activity while pictures and/or words are displayed on a screen. If the suspect recognizes the image or word as a significant event, a “P300” brain wave and also a corresponding wave appear. If it is not a significant event, these brain waves will be absent. This technique has been accepted and allowed into court cases.
Overall the AAFS annual meeting was excellent. I was able to come home with more knowledge and ideas to help me in my current job. If you haven’t attended an AAFS meeting yet, I highly encourage you do so. But, I must say, nothing beats the NEAFS annual meeting!