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Published on August 11th, 2022 📆 | 4266 Views ⚑

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Forensic Science Major Explores Fingerprint Technology as Part of Summer Research


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As a member of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Nicole Stanaback ’23 has been taking images of fingerprints and developing a way to enhance them. Her work has already prepared her for her Honors thesis, and, she believes, her career.

August 10, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Nicole Stanaback ’23 (back row, second from right) at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference in Seattle earlier this year.

Nicole Stanaback ’23 has spent part of her summer taking images of fingerprints as part of an exciting hands-on research project. Her work has given her the opportunity to gain immersive experience while learning to use the technology that she will work with when she begins her career.

A forensic science major, Stanaback is a member of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. As part of her project, she’s been taking 3D images of fingerprints and working to create an optimization protocol for Photoshop. Enhancements were applied to the images, which were then put in the FBI’s Universal Latent Workstation (ULW), yielding quality scores.

“It is important that a fingerprint receives an automated quality score by ULW as well as a manual quality score given by the analyst,” explains Stanaback. “These two quality scores are used to determine if the fingerprint is viable for identification.”

‘It has helped prepare me for my future career’

A member of the University’s Honors program, Stanaback says her SURF experience will help her expand upon her Honors thesis, which she plans to work on this fall. Her work is also already helping at least one graduate student collect data for her master’s thesis. Stanaback says the experience has been invaluable.

Nicole Stanaback ’23.
Nicole Stanaback ’23.

“SURF allowed me to gain additional experience in research, as research and development have been areas I have been particularly interested in,” she said. “The experience has also helped improve my ability to problem solve and communicate my ideas in a clear manner, as I have done this project remotely and could not show my mentor the issues that occurred in person.”

Stanaback worked under the mentorship of Josep De Alcaraz-Fossoul, Ph.D., an assistant professor. She says she’s grateful for the opportunity to learn from his expertise and experience in casework – specifically, with latent prints. She plans to submit her research to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and she hopes to present her work at the organization’s conference this winter.

“Dr. Fossoul has motivated and pushed me to move past what I thought were my limits,” she said. “What I thought were limits at the time ended up being just a little bump in the road to reaching my full potential. Because of this project, I learned how to use the ULW, which is important as many latent print examiners use this software in everyday casework. It has helped prepare me for my future career.”

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