Science enthusiasts get their fix at Cafe Scientifique Tuesday, Sept. 6
Science enthusiasts get their fix at Cafe Scientifique Tuesday, Sept. 6August 30, 2005Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
From dusting for fingerprints to identifying DNA samples, using science to solve crime is hardly a new concept. However, advances in the basic sciences have changed the way law enforcement and the judicial system process and understand crime scenes. Increased attention to forensic evidence in media coverage of crime has also heightened public interest in forensic science. The popularity of television programs such as CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” illustrates the public’s growing fascination with the subject.
To shed light on the general trends and new concepts in the field, and to explore what it means in the context of our justice system, Syracuse University presents “From Sherlock Holmes to CSI: Chemistry as a Forensic Science,” led by James T. Spencer of SU’s Department of Chemistry. The event takes place Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. at Ambrosia, 201 Walton St. Admission is $5.
The lecture and discussion are part of Cafe Scientifique Syracuse, a monthly series that allows scientists and non-scientists to gather informally to hear about interesting science, both old and new, and discuss its implications in a friendly way over drinks and snacks. Sessions are held the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at Ambrosia. Cafe Scientifique Syracuse is sponsored by the departments of biology, chemistry, earth sciences, physics and psychology and the Soling Program.
Spencer will kick off the evening with a short lecture on trends and new developments in forensic science. Specifically, he will address how advances in the fields of chemistry, biology and psychology are quickly being translated into courtroom techniques. Such advances, Spencer cautions, have given juries theexpectation that scientific evidence will always be provided and will givedefinitive answers. Following Spencer’s remarks, the group will discuss forensic investigations and their role in the justice system.
Researching inorganic chemistry at SU, Spencer and his colleagues work on making new solid state materials with physical and chemical properties that can be controlled and tailored for specific technical applications. They then use chemical probes, such as x-ray diffraction and spectroscopic analysis to more fully understand the materials they make in the lab. Many such chemical probes are similarly used in forensic investigations. Spencer has worked with a numberof forensic professionals and has served as an expert witness in chemistry.
With an inclusive, cordial environment and lively discussions, Cafe Scientifique welcomes all members of the community who have an interest in the sciences, not just science professionals. “We hope to keep the discussion free of jargon and aimed at informing and engaging the non-scientist or non-specialist,” says Spencer. “Since forensics cuts across so many fields, we’ll want to keep it understandable to all.”
For more information on this and upcoming Cafe Scientifique events, contactMark Trodden at 443-2564 or visit http://www.physics.syr.edu/cafescientifique/.