Staring Death in the Face

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

It's not pretty, but it's popular. Death and detective work have found their niche in prime time television. And not only are more people interested in watching the programs, but they also want to be like the characters they love.

Dr. Andrea Wylie, Associate Professor of Anthropology at JMU, has seen a boost in the number of students enrolling in forensic science.

"I think they have been influenced by what they've seen on TV and they think this is interesting. It's detective work, it's problem solving in a very real and human way," she said.

Visiting Professor Anthony Falsetti from the University of Florida has seen the same thing at his school.

"When you offer a class called Intro to Forensic Whatever the class immediately fills," he said.

He's glad to see so many interested, but he knows the work is more difficult and less glamorous than TV shows.

Falsetti is one of 64 certified forensic anthropologists in the country. His investigations include the Oklahoma City bombing and the World Trade Center disaster.

He said he doesn't regularly watch programs like CSI or Crossing Jordan, but he has contributed forensic information to both of the shows.

"The producers of those shows are very upfront and honest with you and after you spend two hours on the phone with them they say, 'Now, remember. This is television,'" he said.

Before Hollywood, there was Sherlock Holmes. And Dr. Wylie said the crime novels of Virginia-native Patricia Cornwall have attracted several students to her program.

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