Forensics Night: Who Kidnapped Thunder?

Thunder, the Bobcat mascot for Georgia College & State University.

Forensics Night: Who Kidnapped Thunder?

UPDATE: Thunder is safe, and his kidnappers have been apprehended.

Read more about the Forensics Night event in this Front Page news story.


In celebration of National Forensics Science Week, the Georgia College & State University (GCSU) Science Education Center and forensic chemistry program invites campus and community to help solve the crime of the semester: “Who Kidnapped Thunder?”

Become a forensic crime scene detective and use scientific evidence at five lab stations to crack this ‘whodunnit’ case—involving the university’s beloved Bobcat mascot, Thunder. Come see how the experts do it in real life! From 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Herty Hall.

“Everybody loves crime scene shows on TV, and we wanted to bring it to life for our campus and community,” said Dr. Catrena Lisse, chemistry professor and director of the Science Education Center.

Only one suspect—a mascot from another university—will remain at the end. Who?

Other mascots are jealous of the Bobcat, because they don’t want him to win another “Best Mascot” national award. One of six students, pretending to be assistants for these rascally mascots, will be an accomplice to the crime, driving the get-away car.

Participants will begin the event by watching a news video introducing them to the background story and main elements of the crime. Serving as crime-scene investigators, they’ll each be photographed and receive a fingerprint ID card. Then, they’ll move through five lab stations at Herty Hall, performing a series of forensics experiments to narrow suspects.

Several pieces of trace evidence left at the scene need to be analyzed: hair and fibers from other mascots, blood spots (or is it ketchup stain?), tire marks from the get-away car and multiple finger, paw and claw prints.

Forensic detective wannabes will be given a QR code at the end to determine if their forensic analysis is correct. The code accesses a video showing Thunder’s rescue and the suspect’s arrest.

This whimsical event is a way to celebrate National Forensics Science Week—but also introduce the community to GCSU’s popular new forensic chemistry program, which started in 2021. The Science Education Center is sponsoring the event in conjunction with GCSU Public Safety, Athletics and Student Government Association (SGA), which created content for the news videos.

Eight STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors volunteered to help conduct experiments. Three students—who are taking GCSU’s Trace Evidence and Materials Analysis class with Chemistry Professor Dr. Peter Rosado-Flores—helped design crime scene evidence and experiments. They also recorded background videos with Chemistry Professor Dr. John Trombley.

“Studying and learning about forensics can provide you with an opportunity where no two days are the same,” Lisse said. “One day you may be conducting complex laboratory tests and another you may be supporting victims and improving public safety.”

“No matter what the daily task may be—one thing is for sure,” she said. “In the field of forensics, you must use your problem-solving skills each time to uncover the truth.”

Senior chemistry major Liam Newsome of Gibson, Georgia, is doing a concentration in forensics chemistry. Forensics isn’t just for fun, he said. It plays an important role in keeping communities safe and finding justice for crime victims.

Senior Kaitley Congdon of Gainesville is majoring in criminal justice with a forensic chemistry certification. She’s excited for people to learn more about forensic science and solve cases like on TV.

“I believe it will be a great event for all ages,” Congdon said, “to be able to step into a role they haven’t been able to do before.” 

This event is free, open to the public and appropriate for all ages.

Updated: 2022-10-10
Cindy Odonnell
(478) 445-8668