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Interning in Hawaii

A summer in Hawaii would appeal to most people as a vacation destination. For Mandi Dodson, however, an internship opportunity at the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command/Central Identification Laboratory (JPAC/CIL) was even more lucrative.

A fourth-year student from Amherst, Ohio, Dodson is working to complete majors in forensic biology, criminal justice and French. Her advisor, Dr. Dennis De Luca, met a scientist from JPAC/CIL at a convention and began testing the waters for internships. As it turned out, JPAC/CIL did have an opening, for which Dodson applied and was accepted.

After a thorough background check, Dodson was invited to Hawaii for a six-week internship during which she would work on a variety of forensic anthropology projects. In general, JPAC/CIL sends research teams consisting of anthropologists, odontologists and other experts to sites of major conflict, such as Germany, Vietnam and Japan, in an effort to recover missing servicemen. These servicemen are then brought back to the United States for identification.

Dodson’s first project dealt with dog tags, which can sometimes be bought by tourists, especially in Vietnam. The JPAC/CIL team wanted to know why there were so many dog tags left in Vietnam, so Dodson was charged with reviewing the mortician’s records to see if soldiers had come in with dog tags or not, and if so, where they were found on the body.

She was also able to work on a project she really liked toward the end of her internship. Dodson studied Blumensaat’s lines, which are lines that can be seen on an x-ray on the femur. The angle of this line can assist in determining a servicemen’s ancestry, which in turn can help in identifying that serviceman. Upon her return to Ohio, Dodson took her internship experience one step further by volunteering to present at her alma mater high school, Amherst Steele High School. She ended up giving four presentations to biology and chemistry students at the school.

“The idea was more just to spread information about forensic biology to people who might be interested. I wanted to show them what we really do, versus what they might see on TV,” Dodson said.

Dodson is also an avid traveler who has visited Italy, South Korea and China, among other nations. At ONU, she is currently the president of the Association of Future Forensic Professionals and active in the Asian-American Student Union and Alpha Phi Omega.


Mandi in the lab

In lab