Forensics society learns real-world CSI skills from former Texas Ranger

Conifer Colorado Junior Austin Johnson holds up a freshly taken fingerprint.

By Magdalayna Drivas | Reporter

If you’ve ever wanted to collect fingerprints, analyze bloodstain patterns and solve murder mysteries alongside a former Texas Ranger, Baylor has a club for you.

The Baylor forensic society provides students education, training and hands-on experience with different scientific techniques used in forensic investigations, as well as fellowship and networking with others interested in the field.

“We have biweekly meetings and events at each meeting where we go into a certain subject within forensic science,” Austin junior and forensic society vice president Janie Contreras said. “At this week’s meeting we’ll be fingerprinting. We learn different skills related to forensic science, but we also get to do things like pre-screen a new CBS show about forensic science.”

Members of the society have the privilege of working with former Texas Ranger Sgt. James Huggins. Huggins served the Department of Public Safety for 29 years and uses his real-world experiences to educate his students.

“I was heavily involved in criminal investigations—you name it, all kinds. I had to learn forensics on my own the hard way. I did everything I could to learn everything I could about forensics,” Huggins said. “I decided when I retired someday I wanted to teach and give back what I had learned.”

Huggins has been a full-time lecturer of forensic science at Baylor since 2011, and has seen the forensics program grow rapidly ever since. Baylor currently only offers a minor in forensic science, but Huggins says the department hopes to see a forensics major in the future.

“That’s the hope, because the numbers are growing,” Huggins said. “When I started there were around 30 students in the intro level classes. Last semester I had 94 in one class. We have 10 main classes that we’re doing right now to prep students for going out into the real world.”

Huggins said the forensic society was lucky to have four or five students show up to meetings when he first came to Baylor. Now the Baylor Forensic Society Facebook group has over 140 members and 20-30 students attending each meeting.

“I want to make something available where they can get a little bit of knowledge out of it, maybe quell a myth or two that’s out there, give them a little hands on as much as possible and a taste of some of the things that we do in forensics,” said Huggins. “We kind of give them the bug, maybe, that they might try to make forensics their minor.”

This semester, the society will learn fingerprinting techniques, analyze a mock crime scene and host a Halloween murder mystery party. The society also participates in Steppin’ Out and the Baylor homecoming parade.

The forensic society is open to students of all majors who have an interest in crime scene investigation and the forensic sciences.

“If you watch any crime shows on Netflix and you think it’s interesting, you should come out. You don’t have to know anything about forensics to do it,” Contreras said.

More information about the society’s meetings and events can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/buforensicsociety.

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