Alana Joy Scudiere has written about crimes and mysteries for years, but she will soon have a hand in solving them. A published suspense novelist, she is one of the first three graduates of the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Odontology program.
The program, a joint effort between the Institute of Agriculture’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the UT Graduate School of Medicine, which offers it as a concentration to its master’s degree in Comparative and Experimental Medicine, launched in fall 2015. It is the first graduate degree program in forensic human identification in the United States.
Scudiere, who resides in Nashville but commuted to Knoxville on days that she had classes, writes suspense books about topics that range from crimes to mysteries to the supernatural. She is the author of The NightShade Forensic Files, The Shadow Constant, Phoenix, and a trilogy titled The Sin, all published by Griffyn Ink Publishing.
She will take part in the graduate hooding ceremony Dec. 8.
Forensic identification is the method of identifying victims through the unique characteristics of their dental and craniofacial features. UT’s program is helping to address the need for additional professionals—including crime scene investigators, anthropologists, dentists, medicolegal death investigators, and detectives—trained to investigate crime scenes, provide positive identifications, and process dental and craniofacial remains as evidence. The method aids in solving criminal cases involving bite marks as well as mass disaster identifications.
Scudiere began to read mystery novels at a young age. When she did not place in the advanced reading group in kindergarten, she was so disappointed that she quickly learned to read advanced books on her own. This included many classic thrillers.
“I’d read Carrie, Cujo, Christine, Flowers in the Attic, and The Amityville Horror before finishing second grade,” she said. “I suspect suspense is in my blood. I think it’s also the same thing that I love about forensics—it’s a mystery. You have all the pieces, if only you can put them together right.”
While she has been writing since she was eight, Scudiere started writing professionally about 10 years ago. A few years ago, she began to look at different forensics programs across the country. Many of the programs she found were anthropology or archeology programs. UT’s program was broader and based in forensics.
“We studied all aspects of human forensic identification, from the odontology to sinus cavity matching and more,” she said. “We did a wide array of forensic studies, including time since death, cause of death, excavation, and forensic facial reconstruction.”
Her favorite part of the program was the hands-on work.
“Sure, we studied, but we excavated skeletons to identify and age and faces to reconstruct with clay. I just don’t know anywhere else to get all of that in one place.”
As her graduate program concludes, she hopes to start a new chapter working in the forensics field helping to make a difference.
“Forensics provides families with closure. It allows the dead to finally be put to rest and helps convict those who committed the crimes.”
Embarking on a forensics career doesn’t mean she plans to stop writing. Scudiere started The NightShade Forensic Files before joining the program and is currently writing the third book in the series, The Atlas Defect.
Katherine Saxon (865-974-8365, email@example.com)