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Students solve forensic mysteries in CSI Lab

Published April 23, 2019

Dusting for fingerprints and examining blood splatter are all part of a day in the classroom for students studying forensic science at Long Beach State University.

The Crime Scene Invesigator (CSI) Certificate Program is the only such program at a four-year institution in the state of California – and perhaps even the west – drawing students from as far as Arizona and Northern California who fly in to take classes.

“There’s nothing closer,” said Tamara Peterson, a 37-year-old mother who lives in Concord, Calif. “That’s one of the issues. This is a highly recognized program throughout the nation. This works for working students and parents.”

Each week, Peterson flies to Southern California and rents a hotel room Friday night after working at the Department of Energy during the week, leaving her 16-month-old at home with her husband.

“The class is really fun. It’s informative,” Peterson said. “I’m hoping this will get me a job in CSI or coroners’ investigative office.”

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As part of the training, students practice taking forensic photos, scouring for evidence, prepare for oral interviews, opening, and closing statements that are given during job interviews.

On a recent Saturday, students investigated mock crime scenes staged in the CSI Lab located at the Student Success Center, observing blood spatter from a student assault, sussing out clues from an ATM robbery and documenting evidence at a buried body dig.

“It’s based on the same program given to CSIs working for police departments," said Ron Mark, director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research and Training. “That’s what this program is based off. All of our instructors are either recently retired from this job or are currently working in the field so they’re all professionals. They have real-time experiences for the testing process.”