Quantitative Reasoning Lecture Series Celebrates Connection with Forensics

For immediate release:
April 4, 2007

Contact:Molly Tarantino,

WELLESLEY, Mass. – As the mathematical consultant to the hit show “NUMB3RS,” CalTech professor Gary Lorden has helped develop story lines involving the aerodynamics of falling human bodies, the responses of skyscrapers to earthquakes and strong winds, the epidemiology of human virus transmission and predictive models regarding criminal behavior.

Lorden, right, will bring his crime-solving math powers to Wellesley College in the “Celebrating QR Connections” lecture series this spring. The series celebrates the connection between quantitative reasoning and forensic evidence, starting with Lorden’s lecture Wednesday, April 11, from 5 to 6:30 pm in Collins Cinema. The lecture series is free and open to the public.

“Television shows like ‘CSI’ and ‘NUMB3RS’ popularize the use of quantitative analyses—using logic, probability, statistics and other mathematical techniques—in crime solving and court cases,” said Corrine Taylor, director of quantitative reasoning at Wellesley.

“NUMB3RS” is about an FBI agent who is aided in crime-solving by his younger brother, a math whiz who teaches at the fictional “CalSci.” Lorden will show clips from the show and explain some of the quantitative techniques used in solving cases.

Lorden said he finds it remarkable that in the finished product, “NUMB3RS” depicts “math as not only interesting, but cool and sexy. It also does a good job of showing the reality of being stuck on problems, and working and suffering along the way to finding a solution.”

Future events in the series include an April 17 lecture by Carl Selavka, who served for nearly nine years as the director of the Massachusetts State Crime lab, and a May 3 talk by Wellesley trustee Allison Chung. Chung is the founder and president of TeamWerks, a technology consulting firm specializing in computer forensics. Both events will take place in Pendleton West 212 at 5 pm.

Selavka, a forensic scientist, will describe how quantitative skills are used in various lab analyses including forensic DNA testing, toxicology and the characterization of trace evidence such as hairs, glass, fibers, paints and debris from explosives. Chung will explain how investigators can learn far more than what they were looking for when reconstructing computer activity, keystroke-by keystroke.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries.