Newsletter, August 2017


Programs and PlacesFaculty and Student SpotlightAlumni and FriendsUpcoming Events

Science Building Completed

Entrance to Science Building

On June 19, 2017, faculty and staff of the Departments of Biological Sciences and Geosciences began their move from the Moore, Memorial Science, and Roark buildings to their new homes in Phase II of the Science Building. They joined their colleagues from the Departments of Chemistry and Physics & Astronomy, and the Division of Natural Areas who have occupied Phase I of the building since December 2011. In the Fall of 2017, the College of Science administrative offices will also be relocating to Phase II.

It has been a long journey getting to this point. “It took many years of deliberating, planning, working hard, thinking creatively, and lobbying on the part of many people including faculty, staff, administrators, the design team, and elected officials to get to this point,” said Dr. Tom Otieno, Interim Dean of the College of Science.

Facilities in and Around the Building

At over 330,000 square feet, the new state-of-the-art science building at Eastern Kentucky University is the largest facility of its type on any college campus in Kentucky. The building houses 12 classrooms, 46 teaching laboratories, 60 research laboratories, 119 offices, and 132 graduate student workstations.

The building also contains specialty spaces such as a herbarium, a vivarium, a greenhouse, a fish and herpetology museum, an aquatic invertebrate museum, and a campus-wide chemical storage facility.

Outdoor learning spaces such as a dry stream bed, an artificial wetland, a geologic time scale and the solar system model which consists of brassGeologic Time Scale plaques Neptune is just one of the planets of our solar system.embedded in the sidewalk, and an outdoor classroom have been designed and strategically placed around the building and can be used as venues for research and to teach a wiOutdoor Classroomsde variety of subjects.

These outdoor spaces also provide platforms for developing an “environmentally friendly” building that plays a huge role in EKU’s sustainability efforts. The dry stream bed collects and filters rainwater from the building and the surrounding site, and releases the storm water slowly to reduce erosion and other environmental impacts on the downstream watershed. A green roof system on portions of the building protects the roof from intense heat and cold, which, in turn, increases the life of the roof, acts as insulation for the building thus reducing heating and cooling costs, and helps to reduce the “heat island” effect caused by extensive concrete and asphalt. Green roofs can also act as an effective water management tool. A rainwater storage system allows non-potable water collected from the roof to be used for cooling the greenhouse and irrigating plants in the greenhouse. A virtual tour describing additional green features of the building can be found at:

Thus, in addition to the obvious benefits of more and better space and safer and more accessible environment, this facility incorporates spaces designed to promote dynamic, collaborative, and inquiry-based teaching, and to make science more visible to internal and external communities.

Building Organization and Occupancy

Architectural Rendering of Science Building

The plan configuration of the building can be described as a large slightly open L-shape. A spacious and open atrium connects the two primary wings of the building creating a transition from the first to the second construction phases. The elevation drops approximately forty feet across the building site. To minimize the cost of excavation, the building was designed such that it steps down the site and meets grade on portions of the first three levels.

It is a six-level building, with level six of both wings occupied by a mechanical penthouse. In Phase I (east wing), Chemistry occupies the fourth and fifth floors, and Physics & Astronomy are on the third floor, part of which is at grade level. Science Education (part of College of Education) and the Division of Natural Areas are also housed on the third floor. The main boiler, chiller, and electrical rooms for the entire building are located on the 2nd floor in Phase I (east wing). A vivarium is on the first floor, most of which is underground with limited access and hidden from the public.

Biological Sciences, Geosciences, and the College of Science Dean’s office are in Phase II (north wing). Biological Sciences occupies the fourth and fifth floors as well as parts of the first and third floors. Geosciences are on the second floor and part of the third floor. The Dean’s office is on the first floor.

Funding and Construction

The idea of a new science building had been talked about at the departmental and college levels for many years. However, it was only after some individuals started thinking out of the box in the early 2000’s that we were able to attain milestones that ultimately brought the dream of a new science building to reality. It is impossible to acknowledge individually the many people who made contributions, big and small, to see this project come to fruition. Nonetheless, below is an outline of some of the actions that moved the needle in this journey.

  • During the 2002 “Posters at the Capital” event in Frankfort, KY, Dr. Lori Wilson, an Associate Professor of Chemistry, shared with President Joanne Glasser a flyer of photos documenting hazardous situations and various states of disrepair in the Moore and Memorial Science buildings. This action dramatically brought the need for a new science building to the attention of the university president.
  • In 2002 President Joanne Glasser embraced the idea that a new science building was overdue and promised her full support. A science building lobbying committee was formed at the college level to collect the data necessary to make a case for the building to state government officials.
  • In 2004, Dr. Andrew Schoolmaster, the new Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, pointed out that no state funding could ever be obtained without the involvement of elected officials. He arranged for state representative Harry Moberly, Jr. to tour the existing, aging facilities in December 2004. This decision was the watershed moment in the pursuit of funding for the building.
  • Through the efforts of Mr. Harry Moberly, Jr. (state representative) and Mr. Ed Worley (state senator) EKU received a $5M appropriation for programming & design in 2005 and a $54M appropriation for construction in 2006. The funding was less than the requested $83M and necessitated the construction of the building in two phases.
  • Dr. Michael Benson, the new EKU President, made obtaining funding for Phase II of the new science building a priority. Without the certainty of state funding, he gambled and facilitated the preparation of Phase II construction documents and then he and his team aggressively lobbied for funding, including frequent visits with state legislators. Not only did EKU receive $66M appropriation for construction of Phase II in 2014, but the gamble paid off as EKU was the first institution to go to bid, resulting in a very favorable construction contract.

The timeline for funding, construction and occupancy is outlined below.

  • 2005: $5M appropriation for programming and design for the whole buildingFaculty visit Hanover College's (Hanover, Indiana) Science Center for ideas.
  • 2006: $54M appropriation for construction of Phase I
    $5M added by EKU
  • 2009 February: Construction of Phase I began
  • 2012 January: First classes in Phase I
  • 2014: $66M appropriation for construction of Phase II
    December 2014: Construction of Phase II began
  • 2017 August: First classes in Phase II

The building was designed by Omni Architects of Lexington, Kentucky. The co-operation of many people was critical to the success of this project. Fortunately, this was not an issue. As noted by Mr. Eric Zabilka, the Vice President of Omni Architects, “This has been a remarkable project from beginning to end! The many groups involved at Eastern Kentucky University, from faculty and staff, to student groups and the administration, have worked collaboratively and tirelessly to make this the best Science Building possible.”

Guiding Concepts

The design and construction of a large, technologically advanced, and complex building to serve multiple disciplines must be guided by clearly articulated principles and requires a collaborative approach.  As a result of collaboration between the EKU administration, science faculty and staff, state representatives, and the design team, several key concepts were identified for the design of the building. The overall goals were to achieve a design that focused, promoted, and facilitated on the well-being of the building’s inhabitants, facilitated state-of-the-art teaching and research, and promoted building practices that are environmentally sustainable. The five key concepts were that the building should:

  • Meet the programmatic needs of each department;
  • Fit in with the architectural traditions on EKU’s campus, yet be distinguishable from the older campus buildings;
  • Exhibit transparency and openness to create an inviting appearance;
  • Express the nature of science: technologically advanced, complex, and rich in its application;
  • Be designed and constructed in a way that promotes environmental responsibility and energy efficiency.

The Science Building has had, and will continue to have, a great impact at EKU for many years to come. To read more about the impact of the Science Building see the article "Impact of the Science Building in the Words of Users" below.


Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Science

What is the risk of a sinkhole opening up in my yard?  Will a new doughnut shop in my city have a reasonable chance of succeeding?  What is the “deadliest” road in Kentucky?  What do all of these questions have in common?  They can be answered with geographic information science!  Beginning in Fall 2017, students can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Larissa Watkins (December ’16) samples water quality in Kentucky streams as part of a capstone research project.Geographic Information Science at EKU.

Geographic information science couples geography and information.  That is, it ties spatial and non-spatial data together – whether the data be the existence of sinkholes, business trends for doughnut shops, or fatal traffic accident data.  The Geographic Information Science program prepares students to collect, organize, and manage spatial data, and to apply spatial analysis of data to effectively solve problems.  From accounting to zoology, geographic information scientists are capable of applying the principles and techniques of spatial analysis to a wide variety of disciplines and contexts.

The foundation of geographic information science is geography, in essence, the study of place.  The B.S. degree in GeographicAs part of the Advanced Geographic Imagery course in the BS GIS program, students ground truth vegetation data captured by satellite. Information Science develops students’ capacity to think about the world in 3 and 4 dimensions – in other words, to think spatially and to understand how that space changes, or has changed, over time.  Students also gain valuable exposure to the sophisticated technologies that are used to gather, analyze, and visualize data.  Students use research-grade GPS units, ground truth remote sensing data, and learn the software packages that are the industry standards in the geospatial techniques profession, so that they are career-ready when they Jean-Luc Dobson (May ’17) collects data for an EKU campus mapping program as part of his capstone research project.graduate.  Students gain important experience through a capstone research project or internship, and many of these opportunities lead to full-time employment upon graduation.

Because geographic information science is used in virtually every discipline offered at EKU, the program is built with intentional flexibility so that students can couple their B.S. degree in Geographic Information Science degree with a second degree in another discipline. Anthropology, geology, homeland security, and wildlife management are just a few of the professions that require geospatial analysis skills as a criterion for employment.  Geographic information science also suits a wide variety of personalities: whether you prefer to sit at a computer or be outdoors collecting data, there is a place for you in the GIS profession!

Impact of the Science Building in the Words of Users

Phase II of the Science BuildingThe completion of Phase II of the Science Building brings together four of the six departments in the College of Science. The proximity of these natural science departments allows scholarly collaborations to flourish.  The more than 330,000 square feet of combined area means that there is much more space in which to do the things that scientists do: teaching and research.

In addition to the traditional classrooms, which haveInnovative classrooms promote hands-on learning and student collaboration been designed for flexibility and to foster hands-on teaching, there is even more opportunity for hands-on teaching in the teaching laboratories.  Of course, teaching doesn’t just occur in formal classes; teaching and learning occur as students and faculty collaborate in carrying out original research.  The Science Building includes plenty of space for that.

The building includes lots of glass, which allows for the maximization of the amount of natural light that streams into hallways, classrooms, and laboratories.  It also has comfortable seating in the wide corridors, the atrium, and in nooks scattered throughout the building, and study/congregating rooms provided by each of the departments.  These features (natural light, comfortable seating, and open interior design) promote collaboration and mentorship among students, faculty, and staff from the multiple disciplines housed in the building.

Traditional classroomsThis amazing building will touch the lives of many students beyond the College of Science because of general education requirements and the fact that science courses play a significant supporting role to many other programs across campus.

Many in the Richmond community will also have the opportunity to be touched by this facility.  The large and spacious Atrium has hosted, and will continue to host, many fund raising events, celebrations, and award ceremonies. 

The building will also touch the lives of the younger members of our community.  Many activities for K-12 students, as part of our outreach and recruitment efforts, are hosted in this building and hold the potential for increasingThe Atrium in the Science Building our overall enrollment.

Another positive impact of the Science Building is the opportunity it presents for attracting charitable gifts.  A recent lead gift from a private donor will enable the purchase and installation of 25 solar panels to be used as teaching tools and also generate cost savings on EKU’s electric bill.  This project should attract additional gifts.   The building also has the potential to attract funds through naming opportunities of the entire building and/or individual spaces such as the atrium, classrooms, laboratories or student tutoring centers.

The impact this building has already had and the potential impact it will have can be best portrayed by the comments of our alumni, faculty, staff, and students.

Love Richburg“The Science Building provides an environment in which it is easy for me to focus.  The resources provided here, such as tutoring centers and lab activity equipment, help to keep me involved and enthusiastic about learning and sharing science.”  Love Richburg, Student, Junior Physics Major

Andrew Schlereth“Having access to the fantastic facilities in the Science Building was one of the coolest aspects of my education at Eastern and benefitted me both in the classroom and in the lab.” Andrew Schlereth, Alumnus, B.S., Chemistry 2017

Melissa Sterling“The Science Building made me enjoy going to class because I knew EKU thought the sciences were important enough to deserve new facilities.  Knowing this, I developed a new passion for learning, interacted more often with faculty and staff, and became confident in the major I chose as well as my career path.” Melissa Sterling, Alumnus, B.S., Forensic Science 2014

Garett Yoder“The rooms are ideal to use a variety of techniques which promote active learning in the classroom and an inquiry-style approach to instruction.  The classroom design has strongly affected my teaching by removing structural barriers leaving me free to experiment and adopt new, innovative, state-of-the-art pedagogies to improve student learning and enjoyment of physics.  In this environment, my teaching is both more creative and more rewarding.”  Dr. Garret Yoder, Professor, Physics & Astronomy

Melissa Dieckmann“The Science Building will positively impact our teaching and learning in the geosciences.  The new research facilities and the acquisition of state-of-the-art geosciences instrumentation will allow our B.S. degree in  Geology and B.S. degree in Geographic Information Science students to engage in innovative field and lab-based learning, including research.  The increased capacity in our geospatial techniques labs allows us to increase the number and diversity of courses we offer; these courses and technologies are used by programs and/or researchers in all six Colleges.”  Dr. Melissa Dieckmann, Professor and Chair, Department of Geosciences

Melinda Wilder“Being in the Science Building has had several advantages for the Natural Areas.  First, because of its location, we have people dropping by to ask questions about the building and subsequently learn that EKU has a Division of Natural Areas. Many people, both students and faculty alike, are completely unaware of EKU’s Natural Areas.  Another great advantage has been the proximity to the Science Education offices.  That has promoted collaboration on grant proposals, environmental education programming, and sharing of equipment between the departments.  Dr. Melinda Wilder, Director, Division of Natural Areas and Professor, Curriculum & Instruction

Lindsay Calderon"The Science Building provides extraordinary facilities to enhance research endeavors and collaborative efforts between faculty members in the Sciences.  The creative environment it produces will stimulate students not only in the laboratory but the classroom as well."  Dr. Lindsay Calderon, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Margaret Ndinguri“The Science Building has allowed me to train several students using cutting edge facilities.  The classrooms and laboratories are easily accessible allowing for better ergonomics for students and faculty. This has resulted in a positive culture in the department.”  Dr. Margaret Ndinguri, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Judith Jenkins"The Science Building has attracted a lead gift of $25,000 for the purchase and installation of the first 25 solar panels in a 100-panel array. The system will provide our students with a unique opportunity to learn about energy and environmental stewardship. To further highlight the impact of this solar array, a scholarship matching the electricity cost savings will be awarded annually to the EKU student making the most significant contribution to environmental responsibility.”   Judith Jenkins, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Karin Sehmann"Having the Associate Dean's Office and staff located in the Science Building will allow us to assist students in getting approvals and completing paperwork much more quickly.  It will also be much easier to assist departments in clearing up issues with registration, class scheduling and curriculum.  Moreover, having college advisors and a graduation specialist in the building where students are taking most of their classes will make advising more efficient."  Dr. Karin Sehmann, Associate Dean, College of Science


Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Melinda Wilder

Dr. Melinda WilderDr. Melinda Wilder currently serves as Director of Eastern Kentucky University’s Division of Natural Areas in the College of Science and teaches for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. Her research and teaching focus is on science and environmental education, with a special emphasis on middle school and non-formal learning settings.

As the Director of EKU’s Division of Natural Areas, Dr. Wilder manages EKU’s three natural areas including the Lilley Cornett Woods Appalachian Ecological Research Station, the Taylor Fork Ecological Area, and the Maywoods Environmental and Educational Laboratory.  Dr. Wilder earned a B.A. in Resource Management from West Virginia University, a Master’s of Arts in Teaching in Science Education from Miami University, and a Ph.D. in Science Education from The Ohio State University.

She started her career as a park ranger in Kentucky and then transitioned to a middle grades science and math teacher at Model Laboratory School before completing her Ph.D.  Dr. Wilder says, “My inspiration for teaching science and environmental education has come from the many hours that I played outside as a child. I have passed this love and respect for nature to my two grown children who also work in outdoor science-related fields.”

During her time at EKU, Dr. Wilder has been instrumental in securing numerous grants for science education and outreach. She also served as a facilitator for integrating Kentucky’s science academic standards with environmental education curricula.

Dr. Wilder has also been involved in long standing collaborations with the science and mathematics departments at EKU. Examples of formal collaborations over the years have included:

  • Helping to develop and research the effectiveness of the science courses for teachers (Biology, Earth Science, Physics, Chemistry and Ecology)
  • Serving as the Co-Principle Investigator on the National Science Foundation Graduate STEM K-12 Fellows program aimed at increasing the inquiry teaching in local middle schools.
  • Serving as the educational advisor for all secondary science teaching majors.
  • Serving as the organizer for the STEM-H Expo.
  • Working with various departments to facilitate research in the Natural Areas.

Since both the Science Education and the Natural Areas offices have been housed with science departments at EKU, there have also been a myriad of informal connections and collaborations over the years that have strengthened courses and programs for both our science and science education students.  Dr. Wilder states, "Because of these relationships, I have had the honor of serving as both an informal and formal liaison between the College of Education and the science departments throughout my 27-year tenure.  This has been very beneficial for both education students and faculty as well as science and math students and faculty.  The education programs benefit from connecting with the science and math expertise while the science and math programs benefit from incorporating the research on effective pedagogy.  I have seen a real increase in the quality of the science and math understanding of our education students as a direct result of the science and math classes aligning their pedagogy with best practices in education.  That obviously not only benefits our students but the K-12 students they will eventually impact."

Many of Dr. Wilder’s research projects have involved graduate and/or undergraduate students, especially in gathering and analyzing data for different projects. She said, “I enjoy the people I work with and the opportunities that I have had to try new teaching formats and implement new projects in the Division of Natural Areas. I also really enjoy the opportunity we have through our environmental education programming in the Natural Areas to help both K-12 students and EKU students to appreciate the natural world.”

Student Spotlight: Thomas Eastham

Thomas EasthamThomas Eastham has many interests and skills, which caused him to take some time to land in the right major. After spending 3 years at the University of Louisville as a vocal music major, he decided to take some time off and re-think his academic plan. During his time away from college he worked, sang professionally, and spent some time in Southern California.  He then decided to enroll at EKU because it is close to his hometown – Somerset, KY.  He was a Biology major during his first year at EKU, but later changed to Physics.

Thomas’ father was in the Navy, so he spent some time in Virginia Beach as a child.  However, his parents returned to Somerset and he completed his K-12 education there.  His mother is an EKU alum who earned her M.S. degree in Nursing and, after spending 30 years as a nurse, now teaches nursing at Somerset Community College.  He has one younger sister, Kayla, who graduated from Campbellsville University. 

Thomas stays active outside of class as a tutor in the Physics tutoring lab and as a Teaching Assistant for Physics 101.  After graduation, Thomas plans to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Physics (possibly Astrophysics) so he can have a future in research and university teaching.  His interest in academia  began when he started working in the Physics tutoring center at EKU. He said, “It is very rewarding to help people learn…the fun part is showing people they know more than they thought…you can see the moment when they connect ideas.”

Outside of class and work, Thomas enjoys fishing and the outdoors. He continues to be involved in music and is an avid reader who especially enjoys Tolkien.  He is a video gamer and built his own computer from spare parts.  He was able to take a programming class as part of his physics major, which will help grow his interest in computers. He is also a member of EKU’s German club.

When asked what he has learned the most at EKU Thomas said, “How to get the most out of my education and figuring out how to get through tough times in courses.  I learned that it’s ok to take time to figure out what you really want to do.” He expects to graduate in May of 2018 with a B.S. degree in physics, a certificate in German, and minors in music and mathematics.


Wendell Wilson

Wendell Wilson“Success always looks a lot like hard work – rarely is success a given; it is earned.”- Wendell Wilson

These are the words of Mr. Wendell Wilson, founder and owner of Wendell Wilson Consulting (WWC), a firm based in Richmond, Kentucky that provides technology services and consulting for individuals and businesses.

Mr. Wilson is an Eastern Kentucky University alumnus who graduated in 2003 with a B.S. degree in Computer Science (General Option) and a minor in physics.  He came to EKU expecting to use veteran benefits to pay for his college education, only to find out this was not possible.  But he was not completely out of luck.  His English 101 professor was impressed with him and recommended that he join the Honors Program, which was, at the time, under the direction of Dr. Bonnie Gray.  Mr. Wilson joined the program during his second semester and he still has fond memories of his experience in the program. “It would be impossible for me to say enough nice things about Dr. Gray and the Honors Program in general.  What a wonderful experience that was – the Honors Program helped pay for my college education and books.  Dr. Gray seemed especially equipped to deal with quirky students, myself included,” Mr. Wilson says.

Mr. Wilson found the Honors Program trips to be especially interesting.  For example, during one of those trips, two faculty members, Dr. Ronald Messerich and Dr. Joseph Pellegrino, learned that Mr. Wilson had never been to “a fancy steak place.”  They took this as a personal challenge and were pretty insistent that a group of them go out for a steak dinner.  “The company was just as good as the food, perhaps better,” recalls Mr. Wilson as he remembers Dr. Pellegrino remarking, “Why have a side when you can have more meat? I’ll have the special with a side of pork chops and the fillet.”

There was also the Space 2000 robotics competition.  This was a trip to Albuquerque, NM  to compete in a NASA sponsored robotics competition.  EKU brought home first place in this competition and Mr. Wilson was pretty proud to be on the EKU team.  The team was invited to watch a shuttle launch from mission control as a result of this win and the robot was on display in Crabbe Library for quite some time. 

Dr. Ka-Wing Wong, the Chair of the Department of Computer Science, remembers Mr. Wilson’s days as a student. “Wendell was well-known for his computer skills.  He teamed up with three other students (computer electronic majors) to design a robot that won first place in a national competition, defeating the MIT students’ team.  Later, he brought the idea of robotic programming to the Computer Science Department.  He introduced the use of Lego Mindstorms robots in the CSC 546/746 Artificial Intelligence class.  The idea was adopted into the Computer Summer Camp later on", remarks Dr. Wong.

Mr. Wilson offers several pieces of advice to current students aspiring to get a computer science degree in order to help them maximize their employment opportunities. His first piece of advice is, “Effective time management is key to managing a job while attending class.  It is also important to find time for extracurricular activities like robot building, independent studies and fun stuff.  Try to find a job or internship that pays but is also in the industry.  Working can be exhausting and it is easy to fall into the trap of going through the motions of class without really learning the material on a deeper level.”

A second piece of advice is, “Unlike vocational training, Computer Science is really about training your brain to solve problems with technology (not teaching you a job skill).  As a result, you will have to spend a lot of energy really thinking about what you’re learning or you won’t retain it all.  I was fortunate in that I was working in the profession while in school so I had some context for what we were learning in class that maybe others missed.  Internship early, internship often.”

Indeed, Wendell Wilson Consulting has employed a number of EKU computer science students as interns.  Information Technology services provided by WWC typically deal with networking and hardware issues and include disaster prevention & recovery planning, forensics, infrastructure sourcing & installation, network analysis and user training.  Development services are utilized for software, websites, and applications.  Thus, interns have a wide variety of areas from which to choose.

The third piece of advice Mr. Wilson has for students is, “To not be afraid of the freelance economy; embrace it.  It is possible for computer science students to do very well doing freelance/odd jobs in things like web programming, Microsoft Access, etc.  Don’t be afraid to be entrepreneurial.”

Despite having graduated over 13 years ago, Mr. Wilson remains the most active alumnus in the Department of Computer Science.  According to Dr. Wong, “Wendell joined the Computer Science Advisory Board soon after he graduated in 2003.  He is actively involved with the department’s activities and he is someone we can always count on.  He has even donated funds to support the Vector Conference.”

Dr. Wong also notes Mr. Wilson’s commitment to our students. “Wendell hires students from the department for full-time and internship positions.  Students love working there because of the rich learning environment.  Wendell comes back to the department to give talks every year, bringing the latest technologies to campus.  He is a great role model for our students.” 

Mr. Wilson’s continued engagement with EKU is partly motivated by his desire to give back to his alma mater and to provide current students some of the same types of opportunities that he had.  At the same time, his company receives talented students as interns.  In other words, the interaction is mutually beneficial. Mr. Wilson remarks, “I like keeping an eye on what the department is up to. I am always looking for bright students that can work for me for a time before moving on to bigger and better things.  College students have helped us build some of our coolest projects – face recognition soda vending machines (which is not creepy at all, I promise), motion graphics for national TV, bleeding-edge patented sensor technologies, etc.  In part, this is a cost minimization technique and, in part, this is a way we can take a chance on pie-in-the-sky projects without a huge financial commitment.  I would hope to provide students some of the same types of opportunities that I had.”

Katie Poplin

Katie Poplin“Scientific Integrity---that is what the Forensic Science program taught me”—Katie Poplin

If the state of Georgia needed any trace evidence evaluated between 2007-2010, there is a good chance that Katie Poplin, an Eastern Kentucky University alumna, was on the case.

Katie is a 2007 graduate of EKU with a B.S. degree in Forensic Science (Forensic Chemistry concentration) and an Honors Scholar.  She credits her undergraduate education at EKU with preparing her to compete with forensic science graduates from large, prestigious schools all over the country. She believes the emphasis on practical applications in the Forensic Science program  at EKU made a big difference in her career.  She also  mentioned the unique curriculum at EKU that includes courses on expert witness testimony and legal issues. Katie notes how valuable it was for EKU faculty to stress safe handling techniques and evidence preparation during lab exercises.

Katie continued her career, after training with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, as a Trace Evidence Examiner by training with the Defense Forensic Science Center as a Firearm and Tool Mark Examiner.  In this position, she deployed to the Middle East twice to perform battlefield forensic casework. She worked on weapons evidence up to 12 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week, in order to determine their origin, among other things. She got more experience in one year than she would have in a number of years in a traditional laboratory job.

As Katie moves around in her career, she notes that she continues to run into EKU forensic science graduates including Kevin Lothridge, CEO of the National Forensic Science Technology Center.  The field requires constant training and updating skill sets, so forensic scientists are often networking with others, and EKU graduates have a strong presence.  Katie spent two years training in paint and plastics and has certifications in firearms through this professional development. She has taken advantage of some extreme job opportunities and even moved across country to follow her passion and to acquire the best training and experience by working at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Oregon.

Our impressions of a career in forensic science are often formed by what we see in the media, especially the CSI series of television shows.  Katie mentioned that, most of the time, the evidence comes to her workplace for evaluation rather than her spending extensive time in the field collecting evidence. She also noted that she has only actually testified in court twice so far in her career, unlike the scenarios portrayed on T.V. 

For current EKU students who want to pursue a career in forensic science, Katie advises them to “study hard, be well-prepared for your classes, and don’t party too much. You are here for school and need to take advantage of it. Your background checks will include your college years, so don't compromise your integrity before you ever get out of school.” She also says, “Be ready to pass tests as part of your job application, be prepared to be on probation at each new position, and be ready to improve your skills with further study in training programs.”

Katie is affiliated with the Oregon Army National Guard as a Small Arms/Artillery Repairer. She enjoys the variety in her work since there is such a wide spectrum of firearms and of trace evidence.  She is also an advocate for community service and does presentations for many local organizations.


Thursday, August 17Big E Welcome
College of Science Open House
Thursday, August 17, 2017
11:00 a.m.
Science Building Atrium


Monday, August 21

Classes Begin
Fall 2017 Semester




Celebration of Science WeekCelebration of Science & Mathematics Week
Join us for a week-long schedule of
activities and special guest lecturers in
preparation of the Grand Opening of
the Science Building.
Monday, September 11-16, 2017

For more information regarding the Celebration of Science & Mathematics Week visit: