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The real thing: FHS student explores forensic science

There are a lot of television shows out there these days that use forensic science as the basis of their storylines. Those are cool, sure, but imagine being able to use forensic science in real life.

Cooler, right?

Farmington High School senior Bryana Brower thought so, too. And Brower was actually able to prove that theory when she participated in the Cedar Valley Science Symposium at Wartberg College in January.

Brower was one of five Minnesota students to participate in the weekend workshop, which gave students the choice of nine different areas of forensic investigation to study. She was in the molecular biology of nucleic acids course, which meant she got to work with DNA.

Though she's loaded up on her science classes - Brower plans to go to Wartburg next year and major in biology - it's been a couple of years since she had learned the biology basics. It didn't take too long for those lessons to come back to her.

"The things they were talking about, I learned in 10th grade," she said. "Obviously it was on a different scale, but it was cool that they could do that with students. It was really interesting."

Science classes have always been Brower's thing, she said. She's already applied to Wartburg, and has visited the campus. She found out about the science symposium through information her mom received from the school. Her mom thought it sounded like something Brower might be interested in, and Brower had to agree.

Interested students had to fill out applications, then professors at the school selected who could participate.

Brower hoped to be placed in one of the other sessions, but found herself very interested in the material she learned anyway.

"I want to most likely go into research," she said. "Molecular biology is really interesting. It's interesting to look at things inside of you. I was like, yeah, I could actually see myself doing something like this."

The class gave her a hands-on opportunity to do some DNA sampling and experiments under the guidance of the professors. For instance, students looked at DNA samples and learned how to trace parentage.

The classwork was done on a Saturday afternoon. The next day, students were asked to write an essay about what they learned.

Many of the students who were in these classes will be Brower's classmates soon. And if that wasn't bonus enough, participation in the class qualified her for a $3,000 scholarship.

"It was really fun to go down there again. I got another chance to look at the campus, so it worked out really well for me," Brower said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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