Tuesday Talk with Hillary Daluz
From California to Iraq to Hawaii and back again - Hillary Daluz has traveled the globe, and in the process, she has shared her knowledge with a world of forensic professionals. Her career began at the University of California, Davis, where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Genetics and a Masters of Science in Forensic Science. She worked at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, as a Latent Print Examiner, and after returning to the U.S., Daluz became a member of the faculty in the Forensic Sciences program at Chaminade University of Honolulu. The veteran traveler has worked in a variety of forensics positions including Police Identification Specialist with the City of Hayward Police Department in California and Forensic Specialist with Forensic Identification Services. She is the author of Fundamentals of Fingerprint Analysis and the Fingerprint Analysis Laboratory Workbook. Her sense of humor is obvious in her interview, and we think you'll enjoy learning more about this adventurous investigator.
Q. When did you first become interested in forensic science?
A. I am actually a second generation forensic scientist, like several of my colleagues. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad washing the fingerprint powder from his hands and arms in our big white kitchen sink before dinner. I also remember the sound of the fans cooling the original AFIS system as I used the fingerprint tracing paper to trace pictures in my books. I never intended to forge my own path as a forensic scientist. I graduated with a Genetics degree from UC Davis in 2003 and fully intended to work in the biotech industry. While awaiting biotech job offers I spent time helping out my dad with his forensic consulting company, Forensic Identification Services. I enjoyed it so much that I abandoned the biotech job applications and turned my attention to the forensic sciences.
Q. How did you prepare for overseas deployment, both in your personal life and your work life?
A. This question made me laugh, because I actually didn’t prepare at all. I just packed a bag and deployed six weeks after my job interview. I had no idea what to pack, what to expect, or that it would be the most professionally rewarding experience of my life.
Q. What did you find most interesting about your time in Iraq?
A. Prior to my deployment, the military community was a complete mystery to me. None of my close friends or family served in the military during my lifetime. I met my husband during my time in Iraq, and we have been together for ten years now. Both my time overseas and the past six years as a military spouse have given me a deep appreciation for the patriotism, passion, and devotion of our service members and their families.
Q. What type of evidence can be discovered on or through IEDs?
A. Well, as the saying goes, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. ;)
Q. Two of your courses focus on courtroom testimony. How did you become an expert in that field?
A. I often ask myself that same question. I worked for three years teaching forensic science courses at Chaminade University in Honolulu. It was then that I honed my skills as a teacher and gained a new appreciation for how similar teaching is to testifying. That was an “aha” moment for me, and it changed my approach to forensics as a discipline. I have done extensive research since then regarding not only effective teaching techniques, but also how jurors, defense attorneys, and prosecutors perceive forensic scientists. I have shared that accumulated knowledge at Tri-Tech courses and conferences worldwide.
Q. Any tips for handling nerves when testifying?
A. Absolutely! I start out every Tri-Tech course with a discussion about fear and anxiety. Humans inherently fear the unknown. Think about how universal a fear of dark places is. We fear what we cannot see and what we do not know. The witness stand can be a scary place for individuals who are used to the comfort of their familiar laboratories and offices. The more you know about testifying as an expert witness, the more confident you will be. I recommend the following: collecting and thoroughly reviewing case material prior to trial; a pretrial conference with the prosecutor; a visit to the courtroom; having a solid foundation of knowledge regarding your particular sub-discipline; and most importantly, practice, practice, practice! We cover all of this, and more, in great detail in both of my Tri-Tech courses: “Courtroom Testimony for Fingerprint Examiners” and “Forensic Science Courtroom Testimony.” In both courses, I will prepare you to succeed by lighting candles in the proverbial "dark room" that is courtroom testimony.
Q. What were the best and worst parts of being a college professor in Hawaii?
A. The best part was the students, many of whom I still keep in touch with on a regular basis. I had the opportunity to teach for Tri-Tech at Honolulu Police Department a few weeks ago, and it was thrilling to have several former students in that class. The worst part about working in Hawaii was being far away from my family in California. Also, I’m not much of a beach bum, so I’m much happier here on the mainland.
Q. Most useful advice you received when going into law enforcement?
A. Be patient with the bureaucracy. It is frustrating when you have a great idea you want to implement, or a new product or reagent you want to procure for your lab, or a training you want to register for, but you are at the mercy of the chain of command and a bureaucratic timeline. It takes longer to get things accomplished when working within these constraints, but it is important to remember that the bureaucracy has an important function. It is important to remember that the forensic evidence is only one piece of a larger puzzle, and all the pieces have to fit together in order for our criminal justice system to function.
Q. How did you decide to write Fundamentals of Fingerprint Analysis and the Fingerprint Analysis Laboratory Workbook?
A. I was inspired by my time teaching at Chaminade University and by a life-long love of writing. As an assistant professor, I had a difficult time choosing textbooks for my students. There were several fantastic professional texts available but nothing that was approachable for the student or newly minted forensic scientist. Beverly Cleary famously said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.” So I did. CRC Press recently published the second edition of both books. (TTF note: Both books are available on Amazon.com.)
Q. What is your preferred method for collecting latent prints?
A. This does, of course, depend on the substrate. If we are talking in generalities, ninhydrin will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first process I learned, and I can still recall the thrill I felt the first time I saw those purple friction ridges appear. I also think RUVIS is one of the most powerful, and underutilized, tools in the fingerprint analyst’s toolbox.
Q. If you could invent anything, no matter how implausible, what would you invent?
A. As a work-at-home mom with a four year old boy, the first thing that pops into my head is a robot nanny/sushi chef that pops out spicy scallop hand rolls at the push of a button and is willing to play Go Fish and Candyland all afternoon. Ok, so it’s not forensic related, but it would be a boon to my productivity!
Interested in attending a course taught by Hillary Daluz? Learn more about her upcoming courses below.
Forensic Science Courtroom Testimony
- VALHALLA, NY (WESTCHESTER COUNTY) | MAY 6 - 8, 2019
- SAINT LOUIS, MO | JUNE 3 - 5, 2019
- OMAHA, NE | JULY 22 - 24, 2019
- ALEXANDRIA, VA | NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019
Courtroom Testimony for Fingerprint Examiners
- SAN DIEGO, CA | JULY 9 - 10, 2019*
- ALEXANDRIA, VA | SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019
*Lecture only in this shortened version.
Ever wonder what other forensic professionals are thinking? Our new interview series will feature men and women making a mark i the world of investigation, from latent prints to DNA collection to crime scene investigations. Once a month, we'll share the thoughts and stories of another expert. Don't miss one; sign up for our newsletter for previews and links to the full interviews. And let us know who you'd like to hear from!