INTER 110: Of Mice and Matter

“Of Mice and Matter: Crime Scene Investigation” is an interdisciplinary course being offered in the upcoming fall quarter. The class combines the six credit classes BIOL 160 and CHEM 121 with the three-credit ANTH 195 into a 15-credit class, which fulfills the requirement for full-time enrollment. Taught by Jennie Mayer, Susan Miller and Anthony Tessandori, the course fosters a unique learning environment meant to efficiently clear the prerequisites of potential nursing majors while constantly connecting the topics covered with tangible real-life applications
Mayer, the professor responsible for the chemistry portion of the class, explained she and Miller had “started teaching ‘Mice and Matter’ with Kelly Elsenbaumer from health sciences to show how the chemistry and biology of the human body plays out in personal health and wellness.” This was modified last year to “try a different take on how science is used in the real world, namely forensic science.” This is the second year that the class has been subscripted “crime scene investigation.” With the collaboration of anthropology professor Tessandori, the course covers ground which many students will not be exposed to in typical science classes while efficiently combining the overlapping aspects of biology and chemistry.
Susan Miller, the professor responsible for the biology aspect of the course, stated, “The students are actually seeing how the information they learn is applied in a real life situation.” Students in INTER 110 will practice various forensics techniques both in the lab and to piece together what occurred at a simulated crime scene.
Miller explained: “Normally in BIO 160, there is a lab where we learn to use a microscope.What is being looked at isn’t that important; it’s about learning to use the microscope. In the IDS class last year, we did that as part of a hair analysis unit. So, we were looking at different kinds of hair, at the different qualities of hair, how we can tell one person’s from another’s, and we use that knowledge to solve our crime.” Along with forensics applications being taught in lab, the professors seek other ways to best utilize the three to four hours daily the students spend in class.
Miller said, “Every day is a little different.We don’t lecture for three hours, [which] would be horrible. We use the greenhouse, we use the chem lab and the bio lab, [and] we go outside when we can.” Along with the crime scene which students will get out and investigate on foot, the class seeks to bring in guest speakers as well as organize field trips. Last year, an FBI agent as well as a police officer came to the class to lecture and share their experiences.
As a 15-credit course, the class is designed to require the full dedication of its students. “I think we do a very good job of preparing students who may be just starting their science careers. And it’s just fun, we have a lot of fun,” Miller said. However, she also said, “The only student I would not encourage to take it is someone who is just looking for a science credit. If you just need science for your AA transfer degree, this probably isn’t a good class.” For those entering a nursing program, or anyone exploring their interests, “Of Mice and Matter” may be precisely what the mortician ordered.