Crime Scene Investigation student explores life underwater

Jan Waddy

“FSU Panama City fits my lifestyle; it’s a chill vibe.” — Aaron Hudson

Major: Crime Scene Investigation
Graduation: Summer 2022

A native of Oceanside, California, FSU Panama City student Aaron Hudson, ’22, feels most at home by the water.

In 2005, he and his mom relocated to Panama City, so he could get out of foster care, and they both could get a fresh start. 

“I’m one of the fortunate ones to get to go home. A lot of kids in the foster care system don’t,” said Hudson, whose background has given him a unique perspective on the justice system.

Since graduating from Bay High School in 2017, his goal has been to earn a law degree. Hudson received his A.A. at Gulf Coast State College in spring 2019 before transferring in fall 2019 to FSU PC, where he received an FSU Foundation scholarship. He is pursuing his B.S. in Crime Scene Investigation (CSI).

“I picked the Crime Scene Investigation program because it’s important for lawyers to understand a crime scene,” said Hudson, explaining how his major complements his career goals. “The program teaches how law enforcement officers should be and what they can do instead of just policing.”

The CSI major, housed under the College of Applied Studies’ Public Safety and Security program, integrates analytic and hands-on practical exercises with the theoretical principles needed to work in areas such as crime scene, death investigations, medical examiner’s office and forensic labs. 

Hudson enjoys the science involved in CSI. One of his first courses included a lab with blood splatter kits for analysis.

“We did impressions and took fingerprints,” said Hudson, whose classes have been a hybrid of online and in-person since COVID-19. “During the summer, there’s a whole week of digging for bodies and going to autopsies; it’s not for the faint of heart.”

The summer program offers students a chance to work actual cold cases and mock crime scene scenarios. Students learn how to collect, identify, classify and analyze physical evidence to help solve and prosecute criminal activity.

Hudson has chosen to pursue his certification in underwater crime scene investigation (UCSI). The UCSI certificate is available as part of his bachelor’s degree, but students also can earn the certificate independently or as part of a master’s. UCSI first teaches scuba diving basics and then explores skills needed for underwater forensic research and investigations. 

“They provide Scuba BCD (Buoyancy Compensator Devices), oxygen tanks and diving regulators; and you buy your own fins, snorkel, mask and wetsuit,” said Hudson, adding rental gear also is available. “I wasn’t the best swimmer, but I’ve really learned how to swim.”

Training has included swimming timed laps underwater and staying afloat for 10 minutes, and dives in local springs.

“I’ve lived by the water my whole life, but it’s fun to be underwater. Being underwater is a different feeling, and it’s really pretty,” Hudson said. “We couldn’t go out here in St. Andrew Bay during red tide, so we went to Morrison Springs and Vortex Springs. We’ve seen eels and turtles, and in Vortex Springs, we had fish all around us. I have not seen a snake or alligator yet.”

Later this semester, the training will include day and night saltwater dives from a boat, as they continue mock scenarios of body and weapon searches. 

“When we go out in the boat, it’s about how to find things and what to look for scientific diving,” said Hudson, who added real-world scenarios include murky waters. “I’ve learned to swim with the fins and not move my arms, because it messes up the view.”

Hudson originally was scheduled to graduate in spring 2021, but a car accident in summer 2020 totaled his car and fractured his vertebrae.

“I had to wear a brace on my neck and my back. I couldn’t do anything except school, watching videos, while I was in the brace. I knew too much not to go back to school,” joked Hudson, who made a full recovery after his car was hit. “This program is great, and the professors take care of you; you get to know them. I like having the smaller classes because I don’t get distracted.”

In addition to online classes and in-person diving, Hudson works full time with his mother at Bay Point Golf Club.

“I’ve had a full-time job and been a student since I was 18,” he said. “I like living by the beach. This is the FSU for you. FSU Panama City fits my lifestyle; it’s a chill vibe. Everyone here is super kind.”