Town and Gown - Changes in Forensics Center Provides New Opportunities for JSU Criminal Justice Students


By Heather Greene, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations

The JSU Department of Criminal Justice is pleased to announce that the Center for Applied Forensics will be a new division within the department, which is expected to provide students with more opportunities to hands-on learning about forensics and crime scene investigation.

The Center officially opened under the JSU Department of Criminal Justice management on October 1, 2013. There will be a swearing-in ceremony, where the Center’s forensic scientists Mark Hopwood and Shane Golden will be given their law enforcement credentials by JSU President Dr. William A. Meehan.

Currently, the Center provides crime scene assistance to a five-county area: Calhoun, Cleburne, St. Clair, Cherokee, and Etowah counties.

“There are two educational proponents to the Center,” states Dr. Richards Davis, JSU Criminal Justice Department Head. “One is continuing education for law enforcement by offering certification classes to law enforcement. Secondly, our two forensic scientists at the Center teach classes in our undergraduate program. So our students are learning from people who are up-to-date in the field, who are working cases day-to-day, but are also teaching our forensic investigation classes.”

Mark Hopwood, senior forensic scientist, and Shane Golden, forensic scientist, both received their degrees from UAB and have a total of 30 years experience between of them. Both were previously employed at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, but now each teach two undergraduate classes a semester and work at the Center.

The changes happening with the Center are expected to provide students with excellent internship opportunities. Dr. Davis also expects the department to be able to provide forensics classes on-site at Fort McClellan.

“We’re looking at doing more hybrid courses, where students can have more hands-on, practical experiences,” explains Hopwood. “The space and facilities at McClellan will allow us to let students utilize finger-print powder and do stuff with blood spatter that we can’t do in a classroom. So, from the academic side, this gives students a lot more opportunities to gain hands-on experience.”

The Center also serves as an evaluation site for new and emerging technology that can expedite forensic services, such as their recent work on the TruNarc device, which is expected to speed-up drug testing. Such opportunities to work with cutting edge technology will give criminal justice majors a tremendous advantage.

The Center is also a part of and participates in JSU's IRC (Institute of Research and Collaboration), which is under the direction of Dr. Alicia Simmons.

Jacksonville State University is looking forward to the positive impact the Center will have upon students and the law enforcement community.

This article originally appeared in the "Town and Gown" of the Jacksonville News.