New professor offers forensic look into biology

Julia Eilert

Washburn University welcomed Joshua Smith as an assistant professor into the biology department this year. Smith is teaching two biology labs and an introduction to forensic biology class.

“My immediate goal is to just make it through the first semester, and try to be as effective as I can to get the students to understand the concepts I’m trying to teach,” said Smith.

Smith earned his master’s degree in forensics at George Washington University, and received his Ph.D from Florida International University. He worked as a DNA analyst before coming to Washburn.

“He’s a good teacher, I don’t have any problem learning from him. He’s answered all my questions to where I understood them,” said Sarah Erickson, freshman biology major. “He’s pretty rad.”

Smith grew up in Lutz, Florida, a suburb outside of Tampa. Before realizing his passion for forensics, Smith was on a pre-med track in school.

“I like what I do a lot, so I think trying to enjoy stuff I’m doing motivates me,” Smith said. “I’ve always liked that you have the opportunity to know something before anyone else does, even if that’s just a small something and maybe only you care about it. It’s cool in a day and age where we’re all so connected that you can know something before anybody else does.”

Aside from teaching his classes, Smith is hoping to design some of his own experiments and share his findings with others. He is also planning on starting up some forensics research, which could benefit seniors looking for research projects.

“I had a professor who I did a senior research project under, and he was good at balancing when to give me guidance and when to give me freedom to make mistakes,” Smith said. “I probably learned a lot more from those [mistakes] than from anything that actually worked.”

Taking into consideration the student’s perspectives, Smith incorporates multiple teaching methods to get his points across.

“I really like Dr. Smith, he works hard to keep everybody engaged and he explains biology well,” said Janae Pauly, freshman biology major. “I just really like how he tries to keep us interested by writing problems down on the board and asking for our opinions.”

A couple of Smith’s goals for himself are to keep his curiosity for science alive, and to create a good learning environment for his students.

“This first year is a little bit about doing the best I can and really establishing a good foundation for moving forward,” said Smith. “I’m looking forward to successfully completing the year.”