2023-24 Student Travel Grant Recipients

The Forensic Sciences Foundation (FSF) is pleased to announce the recipients of the Student Travel Grant Award. The Student Travel Grant consists of a complimentary meeting registration and travel expenses (up to $1,500) to attend the American Academy of Forensic Sciences 76th Annual Scientific Conference in Denver, CO. The FSF was able to provide the award to 8 individuals this year. 


Nicollette Appel, MS (Anthropology)
Nikki is currently a fourth-year PhD candidate at the University of New Mexico in the Evolutionary Anthropology Department. She previously received her BS in Biology from the University of Miami and her MS in Forensic Anthropology from Boston University. Formerly, she was a latent print examiner at the Nassau County Crime Laboratory in New York, and she currently holds the position of a forensic anthropology technician at the Office of the Medical Investigator in New Mexico. Her research interests examine the intersection of forensic anthropology with the investigative process and the medicolegal system. 



Qhawe Bhembe, MS (Criminalistics)
A PhD candidate at Rutgers University-Camden's (RUC) Center of Computational and Integrative Biology (CCIB), Qhawe is driven by a passion for justice and a deep understanding of the challenges faced by his native Eswatini. Over 10 years as a police officer, he witnessed firsthand the limitations of traditional DNA analysis in solving complex cases involving mixed DNA samples. His research now focuses on developing an approach that uses single-cell genetics to deconvolute forensic DNA mixtures, promising a new era in criminal investigations. In 2019, his dedication earned him the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, propelling him toward his MS in Forensic Science at RUC.  



Vanessa Cooper, BS (Criminalistics)
Vanessa is a master's student in the Department of Entomology at Purdue University studying forensic entomology. She is a laboratory instructor for forensic science courses at the university, and her research is on student learning in forensic science, blow fly egg laying behavior, and optimal diets for forensically relevant blow flies. In the future, she plans to instruct forensic science or entomology courses.



Taylor Flaherty, MSc (Anthropology)
Taylor is a fourth-year doctoral candidate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a primary focus in forensic anthropology. Taylor's PhD research focuses on gender inclusivity in forensics and anti-trans violence. They plan to analyze the effects of hormone therapy on sexually dimorphic skeletal elements and to catalyze research that enhances postmortem care of transgender and gender variant decedents. They also explore the utility of medical imaging and 3D printing in forensic anthropology. 



Luke Gent, MS (General)
Luke is a PhD Researcher and is part of the "ForensOMICS" Team based at the University of Central Lancashire. His main research involves the application of proteomics and DNA Methylomics workflows to the estimation of Postmortem Interval (PMI) and Age-At-Death (AAD) estimation of forensic skeletal remains. His background has evolved dynamically from the field of Forensic Anthropology with a focus on taphonomy, soil geochemistry, and bone surface trauma to the application of studying biomolecules from skeletal remains to further forensic anthropological investigations. Luke is part of a growing cutting-edge field and team where he hopes to develop his multidisciplinary skillset and interests in both human identification and bioinformatics.



Te Wai Pounamu Telena Hona, BS (Anthropology)
Telena is a PhD student in the Human Craniofacial and Skeletal Identification (HuCS-ID) Laboratory at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia. Telena received a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences (Honors) from UQ, where she studied the effects of image quality and superimposition on infra-cranial radiographic comparison for human identification. Her current PhD research focuses on exploring the relationship between body mass and facial soft tissue thicknesses to improve methods of craniofacial identification. 



Dayanira "Dee" Lopez, MS (Anthropology)
Dee is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her doctoral dissertation research will be centered in disability studies, evaluating the ancient Maya of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico, for skeletal evidence of impairment and/or disability, contributing to interpretations of lived experience and overall health. In the future, she hopes to become a board-certified forensic anthropologist and human rights activist in Latin America.



Angela Tonietto, MSc (Criminalistics)
Angela has been working as a forensic scientist in Brazil for nearly 13 years. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Science in Biotechnology. After more than a decade, she decided to return to the academic world to earn another Master of Science degree, this time in Forensic Science at the renowned Sam Houston State University. Throughout her career, she has always sought excellence and is constantly seeking to improve professionally. Angela feels the AAFS conference is a key event to assist her in pursuing excellence. 

Congratulations to all recipients!


The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.