A Letter from YFSF’s First President

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Diane Fraser received her Master of Science in Forensic Sciences from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. She is an adjunct professor at the University of West Florida, a Fellow in the General Section, and the YFSF’s very first President.

Memory can be a tricky thing. As forensic scientists, we know how unreliable it can be. With that said, I would like to share with you a few of my memories on the early days of the YFSF. I started graduate school in 1987. No one understood what forensic science involved. You could begin a conversation on the subject with “you remember the show Quincy, M.E.” Cultural literacy for forensic science was nonexistent. The first episode of CSI did not air on television until fall 2000.

I should start with the very first AAFS meeting I attended. It was in Philadelphia in 1988. I was a first-year graduate student. I received a grant from the Graduate Student Association for $180. The meeting was downtown at a posh hotel. The room rate was about $180 per night. I shared a hotel room with three other students in my program, all female. To say we were out of our league is an understatement.

So, in 1994, when then President Steven Batterman asked a question about the future of forensic science and how to get younger people involved, I had just enough sassiness to respond. I wrote a letter to him, outlining some of my own personal experiences at AAFS meetings and how awkward it felt to be young and female in our professional organization. He called me out on it. Literally, he called me at work one day. He challenged me to do something about it. He was forming a group of younger members, creating a home for them within the Academy. I was awed. The President of the Academy asked me to be part of the solution. Of course, I accepted. He had arranged for us to have a breakfast meeting at the 1995 AAFS meeting in Seattle. We had support; we had sponsors and a budget. I was even invited to attend the President’s reception. While there, I had another member of the Academy (with a host of ribbons attached to his badge) look at me and say, “I know why I am here, why are you here?” Still awkward, but at least I had the opportunity to explain to him how the Academy wanted to embrace their younger members, to make them feel welcome.

The Academy’s support of its younger members has never wavered from that first meeting in 1995. You would be hard pressed to find a new, younger member who feels awkward at an AAFS meeting today. The organization appreciates and values the input of all its members, regardless of their experience level.

Diane Fraser, MSFS
YFSF Past President