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Greenwood-area students learn about forensics at Lander camp

July 11, 2013
Forensics Camp
Retired dentist and forensics odontologist Dr. Jeff Burkes, of Greenwood, has the attention of students as he describes characteristics of human jaws and teeth. It is part of the forensics camp associated with the Fuji Summer Science and Mathematics Enrichment program hosted by Lander University.
Local students who are attending a forensics camp at Lander University this week are hearing from an expert on a key portion of the subject. Dr. Jeff Burkes, of Greenwood, a retired dentist and former professor at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry and School of Medicine, shared his knowledge of forensic odontology, the science of using dental structures and other characteristics in the identification of unknown human remains and bite marks.

The weeklong forensics camp is part of the annual Fuji Summer Science and Mathematics Enrichment program hosted by Lander. There are 20 students, rising sixth- through ninth-graders, enrolled in the classes that are being taught by Drs. T.D. and Jennifer Maze, husband and wife and assistant professors of biology at Lander.

Asked his purpose in taking part in the forensics program, Burkes said, "To stimulate interest in science and reinforce among students the need for them to learn."

He used actual specimens to demonstrate structure and composition of jaws, many with teeth intact. Under his supervision, the students also bit down on cheese and pieces of Styrofoam for the portion of the class that focused on identifying bite marks. 

Burkes, who is also a Lander docent, said the students were very interested in the subject and very attentive.