GEAR UP campers participate in mock crime scene
Posted: 06/11/2003
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More than 25 Rio Grande Valley students had the opportunity to become forensic investigators for a day at The University of Texas-Pan American Thursday, June 11. Forensic Day was one of many activities held during the 2003 Gaining Early Awareness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Summer Camps.

Lori Sanchez, a Mission High School and Upward Bound student looks over evidence during the mock crime scene at the Health Sciences and Human Services West Building Thursday, June 11.
Forensic Day - created by the Regional Biotech Laboratory Program at UTPA - provided Valley students the chance to investigate a mock crime scene, involving a breaking and entry into a locker at the Health Sciences and Human Services West Building on campus.

"This is the second year we've held this (mock) crime scene at this camp, and all the kids love it," Sebastian Duque, bioscience education coordinator for Regional Biotech said. "They are really entertained with this activity and some of them are already considering a career in forensic sciences."

Clarissa Barrera, a Mission High School student, said participating in the mock crime scene has inspired her to think of a career in forensic sciences.

"I have actually received lots of hands on experience in this area, and in a way it has helped me find a career path," Barrera said. "This has definitely been an interesting experience to go through."

Students were given evidence bags, flash lights and latex gloves to collect evidence at the scene of the crime, and then went back to a lab to analyze the evidence using DNA, hair and footprint analysis.

Students were instructed by former forensic scientist, Mary Ann Escamilla, who currently serves as a biotechnologist/medical technologist with Regional Biotech.

"I hope this activity will give these students some understanding of what happens during and after a crime scene. Also, I think this will help them if they are ever called to serve on a jury because they will understand the process of gathering the evidence," Escamilla said.

Escamilla, who previously worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab, said having students participate in a mock crime scene is an excellent way to stimulate interest in biotech concepts and other sciences.

During the camp, students learned about biochemistry and screening for genetic disorders using sophisticated equipment not available in public schools.

The UTPA Regional Biotech laboratory program was developed to stimulate student interest in health-related fields by providing adequate resources such as laboratory equipment and experimental courses to Valley students.

For more information about the program, contact Duque at 956/292-7319 or Escamilla for the mock crime scene at 956/292-7204.