The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) recognized Chaminade University’s Forensic Sciences Director and Professor Dr. David Carter for his significant contributions to the discipline, to the broader community and to his students with the AAFS Pathology/Biology Section Award for Achievement in the Forensic Life Sciences.
The prestigious honor from the organization, which has more than 6,500 members around the US and globally, is reserved for those who have demonstrated exemplary excellence in the practice, advancement and teaching of forensic applications in the life sciences.
In addition to Carter’s myriad professional accomplishments, committee members applauded his commitment to cutting-edge scholarship and his service as a mentor for young scientists in the field. Carter is chair of the AAFS Pathology/Biology Research Committee, which helps fund young investigator research proposals, and he volunteers to moderate educational sessions at annual academy meetings.
In a recent interview, Carter said he was moved and humbled by the recognition.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “I feel like I’m just now starting to do my best work.”
Carter joined Chaminade in 2012, and he said he’s proud of how the Forensic Sciences program has continued to grow and evolve over the years. “What I try to do with my teaching is tap into our program’s identity and communicate that in an informative and interesting way,” he said.
He added one of the biggest highlights of his work is teaching and mentoring students.
“They provide me with hope for the future. They provide me with a constant stream of rewarding experiences,” he said. “All that is fuel. It’s motivating and encouraging. I just find myself smiling a lot.”
He added, “Many of them are interested in making the world a better place.”
In forensic sciences, Carter said, students find a discipline that at its core is “all about taking care of people.” Carter’s work, for example, focuses on getting answers in decomposition cases—in which key clues to a person’s cause of death are harder to find. “I help police, medical examiners, the coroner … understand decomposition better so they can do their investigations better,” Carter said.
And ultimately, that provides families and loved ones with answers—and closure.
Carter added that while all the elements of his work have their own unique rewards, one thing that never fails to brighten his day is when he hears from a graduate who is doing well in the field. “They’ll send you a message and say, ‘you taught us how to do that thing in class and I used it,’” he said.
Looking ahead, Carter said he’s excited about advances in his field—and about how technology is allowing researchers to take another look at old challenges. “I’m just hitting my stride,” he added, when asked about his own career. Plus, Carter is in good company in being honored with the achievement award. Dr. Lee Goff, Chaminade’s former Forensic Sciences director, received it in 2008.