November 3, 2005

Criminology Expert Speaks at Research Forum

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Students interested in pursuing research heard a criminology expert’s advice on the topic at the Fall Research Forum held yesterday in Lewis Auditorium. The event, which was sponsored by the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board (CURB), featured a presentation by Prof. Mitchell Holland, biochemistry and molecular biology, Pennsylvania State University, as well as various posters of past undergraduate research projects.

“The forum provides the opportunity for students to come and learn about undergraduate research and also to see work being done by current students and to listen to a professor discuss his own research,” said Santhi Gollapalli ’06, the co-president of CURB.

Holland’s presentation, which constituted the majority of the event, was entitled “Life’s Journey: The Benefits of Including ‘Research.'” The lecture focused on criminology, genetics and forensic science, with an emphasis on Holland’s involvement in research projects.

“Find a research area that is uncharted, untapped,” Holland said. “The ability to do research is a great opportunity. And you should definitely take advantage of that opportunity.”

Holland stressed that research can be done outside of the laboratory, especially with such resources as the Internet. He explained that research can be applied to public, private and government settings.

Holland also discussed his past scientific research. As a scientist working for the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, Holland helped to identify military personnel using forensic science techniques, specifically mitochondrial DNA.

Additionally, he cited specific examples where genetic research and DNA was responsible for solving crimes, such as crimes involving rape.

“Rapists will commit 8 to 12 rapes in their career – DNA is helping to stop rape,” Holland said.

Holland also used DNA in a historical case where he identified the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

Holland discussed his involvement in identifying victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

“We were sent more than 13,000 bone samples,” he said. “We developed new drilling methods to extract DNA as quickly as possible … We were able to identify hundreds of victims.”

As an associate professor, Holland helped to establish the crime scene investigation program at Pennsylvania State University. The program’s mission is to provide students with a rigorous education through academic courses, as well as through hands-on experience.

In concluding his presentation, Holland emphasized the importance of research.

“Research keeps you fresh, keeps you sharp. It makes you a critical thinker … it advances your field,” he said. “Knowledge is so important in order to apply what you know effectively and appropriately.”

The audience included numerous students who expressed an interest in criminology and forensic science, as well as students who just wanted to learn more about undergraduate research possibilities.

“I thought I’d come and see what [Holland’s] field was like. The lecture taught me a lot about forensics that I didn’t know before, especially about the nature of the job and how science is applied to the real world,” said Rahul Krishnan ’09.

Following Holland’s lecture, students were able to look at various undergraduate research posters. Although many of these applied to the subject of science, Gollapalli emphasized that “CURB works towards promoting undergraduate research to all students” regardless of their major. “People often associate research with hardcore physical sciences. CURB tries to expose students to other [research] opportunities,” she said.

In addition to the Fall Research Forum, CURB will also sponsor another annual, two-day forum this spring.

Archived article by Jamie Leonard
Sun Contributor