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Just Drawing Knowledge from a Forensic Artist

In episode two of the Identification season, Just Science interviews Suzanne Birdwell, a forensic artist with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the current Chair of the IAI Forensic Art Science and Practice Committee. With over 700 cases in her career, Suzanne Birdwell understands the nuances of forensic artistry. Through a collaborative process, forensic artists create likenesses to aid in recognition and identification of a criminal, a decedent, or a missing person. Listen along as our guest discusses sketching from memory, facial reconstruction, age progression, and other aspects of forensic artistry.

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

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IAI-Certified Texas Ranger Forensic Artist Suzanne Birdwell received degrees in Spanish and Criminal Justice with emphases in Forensic Psychology and Anthropology. Along with a range of art studies throughout her life, she has over 1000 hours in specific interviewing, forensic art, postmortem remains and missing/unidentified persons training. In her duties for the Texas Rangers, which is an investigative division of the Texas Department of Public Safety (TXDPS), Suzanne travels the state assisting local, county, state, military and federal agencies. She has developed hundreds of composite drawings of unknown criminals and persons-of-interest. She develops images appropriate for public viewing of unidentified deceased persons, often homicide victims, to further attempts at identification. Suzanne works in tandem with the state Missing & Unidentified Persons Clearinghouse and works closely with The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. Suzanne has been with TXDPS since 2006, ultimately creating a secondary full-time forensic artist’s position for the Texas Rangers. Suzanne has testified to her work numerous times at criminal trials, being designated an Expert Witness in composite drawing and cognitive interviewing. Suzanne has served on the IAI Forensic Art Subcommittee since 2009, and is now its Chair.


Additional Resources:

2018 Impression, Pattern and Trace Evidence Symposium

IAI Training