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Student Profile: Payten Smith
Criminology master's student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Holding a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours, Payten is currently in her second year of the Master's program within the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. Payten's research focuses on arson and wrongful convictions. In other words, looking to how science has evolved and changed over time, and how this has contributed to fire science myths and ultimately wrongful convictions. Payten also used to represent Canada as a national team member and wrestled on the SFU Varsity Women's team.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
Originally, I attended SFU on account of an athletic scholarship to wrestle for the women's varsity team. In addition, as I have lived in the Fraser Valley for all of my life, I wanted to be close to my family. Following a neck injury, I had to stop wrestling and shifted focus to my studies and to volunteering within the community. Following the kind guidance of Dr. Gail Anderson and Vienna Lam, I took on the Honours program and became the co-supervisor of the forensic entomology lab at Simon Fraser University. This truly was a turning point in my career, leading to the continuation of my research into the graduate program.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
As time goes on, we begin to learn more about science. What we knew fifty years ago drastically differs from what we know now. This directly relates to my area of research, as knowledge within the area of fire scene investigation has continued to evolve and grow with time. Relating this to fire scene examination, many fire scene investigators used to believe in certain fire pattern myths, such as crazed glass or distinct cracking or spalling on concrete floors, which they thought to be direct indicators that arson had taken place. In addition, following old methods of fire scene investigation, if a cause of a fire could not be determined, it would be assumed that arson took place. As a result of this, a multitude of individuals have been wrongfully convicted and have spent years - decades, in prison on account of false science explanations and general fire science myths. There has been a large focus on this in the United States, but little to no research has been conducted in Canadian contexts. I look to shed light on this area, and to identify the likelihood of potential arson wrongful convictions in Canada.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
Being at SFU for over eight years, I have grown to really appreciate the campus and the community that SFU has. Working within the Forensic Entomology lab under Dr. Gail Anderson, I have gotten the chance to learn and grow in ways in which I never thought I could. I am very passionate about volunteering, and the lab has provided me with so much support and networking to create both small and large events for the community, educating others on various realms of forensic science.
HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.
I have been awarded with the SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship, as well as the Dr. Brian Burtch Graduate Award, the Canadian Society of Forensic Science Education Award, and the Skills for Hope Foundation Award. Coming from a background of low affluence, I have always had to depend on financial support to navigate my way through post-secondary education. I cannot express my gratitude for being selected as a recipient of these awards. They genuinely make an insurmountable level of difference in my life. Additionally, their support provides me with encouragement to continue in my studies, my research, and in my volunteering within the community.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?
SFU is a great place for social networking. Through my time here, I have been provided the chance to speak to a multitude of professionals stemming from vastly differing areas. If you are looking for a program which will provide you with not just the experience of a degree but the chance to broaden your networks and create memorable experiences, look no further!
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?
I would like to thank my family, friends and all of my mentors. Without your support, I would not have been able to achieve all that I have. Thankyou!
Contact : Paytens@sfu.ca