Old school crime meets new school forensic science

What happens when the criminalists of CSI take on the classic "whodunits" of internationally known mystery writer Agatha Christie?


Forensic science students from the University of Houston-Victoria will do just that July 17 as part of an event dubbed "Forensic Theatre." Aspiring criminalists from Victoria and Sugar Land will tour the Houston Police Department Crime Lab during the day and take in the presentation of Christie’s "The Unexpected Guest" at the Alley Theatre that evening.


Students will use what they’ve learned from both locations for a class project detailing how they would investigate the sinister murder plot of Christie’s play.


Richard Gunasekera


"The students will get to see a world-class working crime lab and a world-class theatre performance," UHV forensics professor Richard Gunasekera said. "This gives them a chance to see what they are learning in class in action, and then apply it in a very fun way."


At the crime lab, students will get to tour the different divisions including firearms, blood evidence, biologic evidence, toxicology and questioned documents, Gunasekera said. They also will have personal interaction with lab director Irma Rios and other crime lab employees.


While at the play, students will take detailed crime scene notes and then write papers on how they would use modern techniques to investigate the crime they’ve just seen unfold.


The 32 students will also discuss their thoughts and findings in an online discussion forum.


Christie’s time with her first husband during his exploits in the Royal Red Cross added great realism to her work, Gunasekera explained. That makes a quality showing of her plays the perfect venue for such a project.


"We like to make the learning experience at UHV as hands-on and relevant as we possibly can," said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, which contains the forensic science classes at UHV.


Some students work on the international literary review publication American Book Review, and others will soon be a part of running the publishing house Fiction Collective 2 with the start of the school’s publishing master’s degree program in 2009, Di Leo said.


Students in the School of Nursing work on state-of-the-art human simulators that can present a host of diseases, and even have variable heart rates.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Thomas Doyle 361-570-4342