What’s that smell at SE Tech? Oh, it’s just the forensic science course.

turkey leg final shade
Imagine a human body (Alex Friedrich / MPR News)

I've written a lot about the musical instrument programs here at SE Tech in Red Wing, because they're a hallmark of the school.

But in looking into other areas here, I've found a pretty cool version of the standard "general ed" class.

I'm talking with chemistry professor Leah Schnaith, whose Introduction to Forensic Science course sounds like a fun crossover between disciplines.

See that turkey leg above? That's what it looks like after several weeks of decomposition.

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It's part of an exercise to help students understand what happens to flesh as it rots under various conditions -- hot, cold, sun, shade, water, etc.

Schnaith puts turkey legs into a cage outside the building, and students visit them three times a week for several weeks to take notes on their condition, color, smell, etc.

Schnaith doesn't hold back. (Alex Friedrich / MPR News)

It's all about forensic science -- in this case how long a body has been dead and under what conditions -- and the chemistry behind it.

To analyze crime scenes, students also learn about areas such as ballistics, handwriting analysis, and the chemical analysis of clues.

Schnaith says the class is recommended for criminal justice majors. But with a solid grounding in chemistry, lab techniques and disciplined note-taking, it also serves as the lab-science credit that non-science majors can take to move on to a university.

"If you have to take a science class, you might as well take something that's interesting," she said.

Plus, students may gravitate toward forensics after taking the coufrse -- or just view life in a different way.

"Science is all around you," she said.