Shannon Prince rifles through the trash can and deposits her treasures on the table set up behind the Cohen Center building: a greasy plastic knife, a crunched can, a wrinkled plastic bag.
The scenario, she tells the criminalistics class gathered around her, is this: the bad guys were eating at the table, then got in their getaway car and fled. The students’ job is to figure out what items they might be able to test for latent fingerprints.
They make a super-glue chamber from a used Home Depot box, put the items inside and burn a glob of glue in there because, it turns out, when you heat super glue at high temperatures, the toxic fumes it produces adhere to the sweat and oils that make up a print. You can see it because it’s white.
The students love it. Learning the science behind crime scene investigations was the main topic that Prince, a 2002 alumna of the graduate Criminal Justice program, emphasized during the criminalistics workshop she gave at Xavier in November. She also discussed how to turn a criminal justice degree into a career in forensics.
Prince is a forensic scientist in the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va. She spends her days testing evidence in the lab, but she also goes into the field to train investigators on the proper technique for collecting it. She tells students that to be in forensics requires a lot more science than most criminal justice students have. She took additional undergraduate science courses while she was a graduate student at Xavier to boost her resumé.
Professor Emeritus Jack Richardson, who manages the 15-hour criminalistics concentration, invited Prince to teach the workshop. She’s one of about 10 alums Richardson invites back to teach different topics in the criminalistics track, such as crime scene investigation, crash reconstruction, search and seizure, jury issues, criminal law, homicide investigations, controlled substances and corrections.
Prince has taught fall workshops twice now, and plans to return this fall as well.
“I am very proud to be a Xavier grad,” she says. “Once I chose to go there, I wanted to be more involved, and when I saw their program was picking up, I wanted to be a part of it somehow, to be more of a resource, and that’s what I’m doing.”