The Talking Dead: Leading medical examiner visits MTSU to talk forensics

Photo and story by Angele Latham / Contributing Writer

A child’s foot, or a bear’s paw? A vanishing body, or a cunning hitman? These were some of the questions discussed Tuesday evening as students, professionals and the public congregated in the Student Union Ballroom to hear Bradley Adams, the director of the Forensic Anthropology Unit in New York City, speak.

As part of MTSU’s William M. Bass “Legends in Forensic Science Lectureship” series, Adams follows a prestigious line of annual speakers. Previous noteworthy speakers include people like former FBI supervisor Joe Navarro, author Kathy Reichs and Steve Symes, among others. Adams himself is not without merit; he and his team are responsible for all forensic anthropological cases in New York and are spearheading the ongoing recovery and identification efforts from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Thanks to the Forensic Institute for Research and Education (FIRE), Adams was able to impart his professional experience and wisdom to the packed ballroom of eager listeners.

Adams began his speech recounting his days as a college student and how he discovered he wanted to work in the field of anthropology, despite doubting if he had the fortitude for such grisly scenes. He did, however, note that he had a bit of a leg up on the competition, thanks to the unique situation he was raised in.

“I didn’t know- I might go to my first fire scene and not be able to handle it,” he said, chuckling at the prospect. “Am I going to see a decomposed body and say ‘You know, this isn’t for me’? But I kinda had the idea that I’d be okay with it because growing up in Kansas, my grandfather ran funeral homes… So I had been around dead bodies while growing up. To actually get to the bedroom, you had to walk through the display room of caskets. To get to the garage, you had to go through the embalming room. So it wasn’t like I didn’t have any experience, but you know, I was totally new to this. But I found it fascinating so I was okay with it.”

This statement set the tone for the entirety of the lecture. Adams carefully intertwined professional knowledge with fascinating anecdotes and encouragement for the aspiring scientists and law enforcement before him. As he recounted multiple cases throughout his career, Adams gave insider knowledge that would otherwise be completely inaccessible to students. Occult sacrifices? Check. Murderous roommates? Absolutely. The importance of the role of forensic psychology in the field? Vital. The engaging content and exclusive information gave an unparalleled opportunity to MTSU students to observe an accurate example of what it means to be a forensic anthropologist today.

For more information on the Forensic Science opportunities and events on campus, check out MTSU’s Forensic degree program, or the Middle Tennessee Forensic Society.

To contact News Editor Caleb Revill, email

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