ENMU Forensic Science Society Visits the Houston Forensic Science Center

Student members of the ENMU Forensic Science Society
Student members of the ENMU Forensic Science Society at the Houston Forensic Science Center.

ENMU Forensic Science Society Visits the Houston Forensic Science Center

Student members of the Eastern New Mexico University Forensic Science Society (FSS) had the opportunity to visit the Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) in March and meet with the CEO, Peter Stout.

Chantel Nelson, ENMU FSS historian, discusses the trip and its impact on the organization's students.

enmu fss members

Tell us about ENMU FSS.

The Forensic Science Society is an organization with the goal of furthering our knowledge about forensic science as well as making new bonds with members.

We hold a variety of club meetings ranging from documentaries on serial killers, guest speakers, scavenger hunts, labs and game nights.

FSS also annually hosts Trunk-or-Treat, a big collaboration with other clubs and organizations to provide a fun, safe way for kids to trick-or-treat.

Discuss the planning process for the trip.

Originally, we had wanted to go to the American Association of Forensic Science (AAFS), but a lot of things did not pan out for that trip to be successful. For one thing, COVID-19 precautions were a major deciding factor, but also the trip cost and planning for planes and hotels. This forced us to look for closer to home/more reasonable trip ideas.

Dr. Kuzminsky (our amazing advisor) got us a tour at the HFSC and helped us find nearby hotels and fun things to do; the rest is history.

Please give us some details on the trip's itinerary.

The trip was over spring break (Match 17-19) to Houston, Texas, where we visited the HFSC. We got up early on the 17th and left at about 6:30 a.m. We drove for about nine hours, stopping for breaks, snacks and lunch.

The club treated everyone to dinner at Chili's, and then we all passed out at the hotel. We had an early start on the 18th, and to start ourselves off right, we grabbed some coffee from Starbucks. Then we headed to the HFSC and spent around three hours there getting a tour of their facilities, which was a phenomenal experience.

After that, we went back to the hotel for some free time. A group of us went to dinner while another went to the mall. We all grouped back at the hotel to rest up for the night, preparing for our nine-hour drive home!

enmu fss traveling

Tell us about the visit to the Houston Forensic Science Center.

The tour itself was amazing, and everyone had a fantastic time. We were given an initial presentation by Peter Stout, the CEO, and then sent on the rest of the tour with people from each section.

We got to see the firearms, blanks (quality control), biology, drug/chemistry, latent print and toxicology divisions; in each section, one of the guides would speak about it. It was nice (and a sort of relief) to hear that the people who work there are not perfect and incidents do happen, but they are all turned into learning moments and have improved the protocols over time.

Discuss meeting with the CEO and some of the lessons the group learned from him.

Talking with CEO Peter Stout was an eye-opening experience for all of us. He did not sugarcoat his job or anyone else's.

He told us how the HFSC got started and the problems they faced and how they fixed them, the ever-expanding and improving system that practices proper protocol and how they became a standard for the field of forensics. Mr. Stout also gave us advice on moving forward in the field, giving us a unique inside feel.

What impact do you think this trip had on FSS members in terms of preparing for their careers or furthering their education?

I think the trip had a great impact on the FSS members in helping influence and plan where to go from here.

Mr. Stout offered his advice on what further education to take or what it could look like, as well as what foundations/backgrounds we should have going into forensics (which is a strong hard science background like chemistry).

I think the trip also helped us to potentially narrow down what areas we may want to specialize in or even an area we had not previously thought about before.

The insider knowledge and stories we learned, I think, definitely will help us to figure out where we want to go.

Any upcoming events for FSS?

We don't necessarily have any upcoming events that we are hosting or collaborating on. However, we are looking forward to participating in Eastern in Action and mud volleyball with the Criminal Justice League. We recently tabled at the Student Organization Fair for ENMU's Open House event.

enmu fss group