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Texas A&M at Qatar STEM program teaches high school students about forensic technologies

Published May 05, 2018

High school students from across Qatar spent a week learning about the science and technologies behind crime scene investigation as part of the Engineering Heroes: Qatar Special Investigators (QSI) academic enrichment program hosted by Texas A&M University at Qatar.

Engineering Heroes is a unique and innovative academic outreach initiative that teaches students the principles behind forensics. QSI focused on the forensic science and technology used by the Qatari police and the Ministry of the Interior to investigate crimes and protect the State of Qatar.

Forensic science is the application of science and technology to collect, preserve and analyze evidence to be used in the course of a legal investigation. Participants in the camp learned the history of forensic analysis and how it evolved into today’s specialized career field. Forensic specialists require varied educational backgrounds including chemistry, physics, biology, toxicology, chemical engineering and electrical engineering. These scientific experts use microscopic examining techniques, complex instruments and mathematical principles to support law enforcement.

During the weeklong program, QSI participants learned about toxicology and chemical analysis, including blood determination, how to determine drug contents, fingerprint development and environmental contamination. The students also learned about chromatography and spectrometry, which can be used to separate and analyze complex chemical mixtures such as the inks used in counterfeiting and performance-enhancing drugs used in sports. Other topics included the science of fluorescence, which is used to discover bodily fluids and hidden messages left at crime scenes; infrared light, which can find hidden cargo, potential hazards and environmental pollutants; how high-powered scanning electron microscopes instruments can help discover the elemental composition of trace evidence and interpret forensic geology; and an introduction to DNA profiling. The students visited Texas A&M at Qatar’s state-of-the-art 3D visualization facility that can be used to create virtual environments to study crime scenes. 

The camp was facilitated by Benjamin Cieslinski and Dr. Mohamed Gharib from the Office of Development, Engagement and Outreach at Texas A&M University at Qatar. Invited guest speakers included representatives and experts from the Ministry of the Interior’s Forensics Laboratory department. The program concluded with a competition in which the participants used their forensic knowledge to investigate a mock crime.

Participant Fatma AlMohannadi said, "This is my first time participating in Engineering Heroes. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot of interesting things that will help me in the future. I really loved this experience and I will repeat it again."

Participants Lamaa Khalid, Huda AlMannai, Nadine Albawwab, Ahmed Muwafi and Moath Aldobashi said, "We really enjoyed dusting our fingerprints and the DNA topic. We learned about methods of crime scene analysis. It was our first time. We enjoyed it and yes, we would come again. It was fun!"

Texas A&M at Qatar partnered with industry sponsor Occidental Petroleum of Qatar Ltd. (Oxy Qatar) to present Engineering Heroes, which is one of several STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs that delivers strategic educational outreach programs to motivate young Qataris to choose educational pathways for careers in fields related to STEM. Engineering Heroes was inspired by scientific research that is helping law enforcement solve crimes. 

Dr. César O. Malavé, dean of Texas A&M at Qatar, said, “The State of Qatar is investing in its people to develop the technical workforce that it needs to sustain its phenomenal growth and drive the State toward the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030. Texas A&M at Qatar is supporting this human capacity development by engaging young students through exciting learning opportunities such as Engineering Heroes so that they choose careers in science and engineering. We are proud of those students who invest in their futures by participating in programs such as these.” 

Mr. Andrew H. Kershaw, president and general manager of Oxy Qatar, said, “We congratulate Texas A&M at Qatar for creating and making available this hands-on learning for students in the community. Engineering Heroes is a really good example of how engaging and fun STEM programs can be.”