Quinnipiac hosts high school science students/detectives for a day

April 15, 2024

Professor demonstrates splatter using dropper

From determining the origins of “blood” spatters to piecing together mysteries hidden in bones, a highly engaged group of Hamden High School science students became detectives for the day at Quinnipiac, as part of an ongoing partnership with the university.

During hands-on lab activities on March 22 at the College of Arts and Sciences on the Mount Carmel Campus, the high schoolers became immersed dug into the science of forensic anthropology. The activities were led by Quinnipiac Instructor of Physics Nicole Granucci and Professor of Anthropology Jamie Ullinger.

Ullinger has been collaborating with Hamden High School biology teacher Ann Marie Aguiar for two years. The two first met through Quinnipiac University Advancing Diversity in Science (QUADS) due to their common interest in supporting diversity in STEM fields. QUADS is supported by a grant from the Connecticut Collegiate Awareness and Preparation Program (ConnCAP), Office Higher Education and Quinnipiac University.

“It’s so important to be able to bring the students what we know, to allow students to have access to resources they don’t necessarily have and for them to see what college is like. It’s also a great way for us to work with members of the community,” said Ullinger.

Granucci arrived armed with a dropper and a container of some brightly colored, corn-syrup based “blood” to demonstrate the motion and spacing involved in “splats” – drops of blood splatter. She showed the students how height, angle, velocity, movement and other factors create splatter patterns which help tell forensic experts the story of a crime scene.

With rulers in hand, the students measured the diameter of various blood patterns at differing heights. Based on the different diameters of the drops, Granucci challenged them to figure out whether the drops came from ankle, knee, shoulder or head level.

Granucci also walked them through blood spatter activities exploring angles of impact and explained how to triangulate the area of convergence and measure the distance of the blood stain from that area.

Remy Scheibley ’25, a sociology major minoring in anthropology, assisted in the lab. Scheibley said she hoped she might be able to encourage students feeling inspired to further their interest in the science, or any field, to pursue their passion in college.

“I would say I’m a good example of discovering and following passion in college. I came here as a biology major and I had no idea what anthropology was, or forensics of any kind,” said Scheibley. “But through meeting different faculty and taking opportunities as they were given to me at Quinnipiac, I discovered I was incredibly passionate about forensic anthropology. I think being able to help in cases with missing people and to give families closure, if that is what’s needed, is such an important part of criminal justice that isn’t as appreciated as it should be.”

Turning the business of bone identification, Ullinger challenged the students to sort bones from the anthropology lab into a skeletal inventory; then identify the types of bones, determine the number of differing individuals represented, differing ages and any injuries or pathologies impacting the bones.

Hamden High School junior Jemaya Saunders gave the day’s instructors a thumbs up and said she felt very comfortable with her first learning experience in a college lab setting.

“I want to go in biochemistry, so this is pretty exciting,” said Saunders.

Aguiar said the day’s collaboration and visit to Quinnipiac provide an exceptional experience for her high school students.

“For most of them, it’s their first time here and just seeing the university is key,” said Aguiar. “It’s good exposure for them to see what campus life is like, what the classrooms are like, the types of equipment that’s here and what college is like.”

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