Crime Scene Investigator
Jim Huggins ’81 uses his experience in forensic science as Texas Ranger sergeant to teach college students
Measuring bloodstain patterns, collecting fingerprints and exhuming bodies may seem like the plot of a crime scene investigation television show, but for Jim Huggins ’81, it’s a way of life.
Now a professor of forensic science at Baylor University and the founder of his own CSI business, Huggins said his love for science and teaching began when he was a senior at UMHB.
“The staff and professors at the university really put me where I needed to be,” he said. “The last thing I ever expected to do during my senior year was to be a biology teacher’s assistant for the freshmen. But when I did that, I was hooked. Even then I knew I was going to teach in some way.”
But it took Huggins many years to find an avenue for his love of instruction. While he waited for an opportunity, he joined the Department of Public Safety.
“I spent over 29 years in the department,” Huggins said. “I was a state trooper, I worked on criminal investigations, and for the last 15 years of my career, I was a Texas Ranger sergeant.”
While working with DPS, Huggins worked on state and national crimes including felonies, bank robberies, and murders.
But, even though he loved his work with law enforcement, he still had the desire to teach.
“I thought, once I retire, I want to give back what I was fortunate enough to learn and experience.”
After completing his master’s in forensic science, the sergeant received a phone call from Baylor, asking him to teach a night class. After agreeing to teach the class, he received calls from several other universities who wanted him to teach at their institutions as well.
“While I was still working as a Ranger sergeant and running my side business, I was teaching Monday nights at Baylor, Tuesday nights at Sam Houston State, and teaching online and weekends at East Texas Baptist,” he said. “I wasn’t sleeping, but I was loving it.”
Huggins kept up his crazy schedule until a full-time professor of forensic science position opened up at Baylor.
“I let all of my other jobs go except for the side business, and I went ahead and retired from my Ranger position.”
The sergeant has now completed a full year of teaching at Baylor. But Huggins isn’t just a professor; he’s also a researcher.
In late May, Huggins and another Baylor forensic science professor took 18 undergraduate students to the border to exhume bodies of illegal border crossers.
“We’re extracting DNA from these bodies and putting them in a database,” he said.
The project helps loved ones find out what happened to their family members who crossed into America and were never heard from again.
“Families can submit their DNA to the database, and hopefully we can match them up and repatriate [the remains] back to their home country and their families.”
Huggins said if it wasn’t for his start as a teacher’s assistant at UMHB, he would never have had the opportunity to be a part of a research project of this nature.
“From an undergraduate standpoint, that was the best year and a half of my degree.”
-Jessa Grassi McClure ’08