Some of the most popular shows on tv revolve around forensic science, in particular the study of evidence at crime scenes. NCIS, CSI and Law and Order SVU, and many others. It's become a popular career choice for many young people, but those who actually work in the field say TV shows and real life are two different things.
Cristina Figueroa-Soto, a graduate student from the Forensic Anthropology Center at UT-Knoxville, says it's a vitally important field.
"We are able to identify people, bring them back to families, and provide closure," she said. "Plus when you help law enforcement, you really help the community."
Many students are regular viewers of prime-time's top shows. They see the fast-paced investigations, the snappy dialogue, and cases solved in less than an hour.
Figueroa-Soto said, "Sometimes they project having somebody identified in a brief period of time. It really doesn't happen like that. It takes a long time, it's a very long process. You need to have plenty of experience."
After getting the true story on the long hours, the painstaking investigative procedures and exhausting scientific studies, some high schoolers are convinced that this just might be the career for them.
Senior Haley Reynolds said, "When I started watching those shows as a kid, I thought it would be cool except for the scary part when you're alone with a dead body, but she said that's not really what they do, and that calmed my nerves a little bit."
Figueroa-Soto is proud to have entered this field, knowing she and others can conduct research to help families find answers, and help law enforcement authorities solve crimes. She says it's a privilege to visit schools like Soddy-Daisy, to encourage tomorrow's forensic scientists, and dispel the various myths about her over-glamorized profession.
"You know, we don't go to the cops, and we don't carry guns," she said. "We work in the field, we help with recovering bodies, we take the remains to the lab, and our work really begins. It can take a few weeks, it is really different from any other career."
The program at Soddy-Daisy High was arranged by School Resource Officer Jason Mitchell of the Hamilton County sheriff's Office. He says part of his job to connect with students in a classroom setting, and was thrilled when the UTK Forensic Anthropology Center accepted his invitation.