AUGUST 2, 2007

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The evidence is in: OSU advanced forensics class a hit

Photo of a man kneeling in grass, surrounded by five college students.
Deputy police chief Ron Thrasher teaches his OSU students about forensics as they examine a field outside of Stillwater.

When they first enroll in his course, Ron Thrasher’s students wonder if the sociology class will imitate the wildly popular TV series “CSI.”

“CSI: Stillwater?”

Thrasher teaches advanced forensics as part of the College of Arts and Sciences Outreach program at Oklahoma State University. A seasoned forensics expert and one of Stillwater’s top cops, he provides hands-on experience on how to conduct detective work, and well, how to think like a bad guy.

Thrasher’s forensics class begins with a scenario of a missing person/murder investigation. And while most of the course is taught online, it’s the one-time field experience Thrasher’s students remember. They head to a field just outside of Stillwater where they conduct an on-site exhumation. There, they search for buried remains – in this case, animal remains.

It’s no easy walk in the park – or field. The search and analysis involves complex techniques. Collecting the data. Understanding the skeletal system. Estimating age, sex and ancestry. Establishing a positive identification.

Last spring, Thrasher’s inaugural class attracted more than 50 students. “Having a cop who knew how to process a crime scene made the class even more riveting,” said Autumn McDaniel, a Tulsa senior majoring in chemistry.

With more than 30 years experience as a police officer, Thrasher is well qualified. He oversees Stillwater’s criminal investigation division processing about 100,000 police reports a year. He holds a master’s degree and doctorate in sociology from OSU. His courses are wildly popular, according to Walter Shaw, College of Arts and Sciences Outreach director.

McDaniel plans to work in forensics after graduation and says she appreciates Thrasher’s expertise. “The class gave me a look into what forensics is really like rather than getting all my knowledge from the TV or Internet.”

No background or experience is required, however, Thrasher has two prerequisites:

He wants you to have fun.

And if your goal is to become the next Horatio Caine, please enroll in acting class.

The class starts Aug. 20 and can take up to 55 students. For more information on this or any of the 100 courses available through Outreach, phone (405) 744-5647 or visit asoutreach.okstate.edu.