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Articles tagged with: fis

30 Jul

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Amino acids in human hair could help better identify perpetrators of crimes and their victims, according to new research.

1378477386_md Currently, when a DNA sample is collected at a crime scene, the sample is run through a database in an effort to secure a match. The challenge comes when the hair evidence does not contain the root—which contains the nuclear DNA—or when no matching sample exists in the database.

“If you do not have a known, the DNA analysis is literally useless,” said Glen Jackson, Ming Hsieh Distinguished Professor of Forensic and Investigative Science at West Virginia University and lead investigator on the project that is now funded through a grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

Jackson’s research, using the chemical makeup of human hair, would enable analysts to make educated determinations about a person with a high degree of confidence.

“The ability to be able to tell three or four things about a person based on these chemical measurements could provide an investigative lead, even if an individuals’ DNA is not in a database. We can still know something about the person.”

Jackson has already successfully classified groups of individuals by Body Mass Index (BMI) and age, as described in a manuscript currently in press in the journal “Science and Justice.”

“Having an idea of what age a person is can dramatically increase the chance that a suspect is identified. For example, If we can say there’s a 90 percent chance this person is over the age of 45—that could be really helpful, because most crimes are committed by younger people,” Jackson said.

Jackson recently became a member of the Forensic Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (FIRMS) Network, a network whose applications include using isotopes to identify the geographic origin of victims or suspects, who do not have a DNA profile in a database. He will serve as chair of a national forensic mass spectrometry conference in Jan. 2015.

Before to moving to WVU in 2012, Jackson was an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio University, where he served as director of the forensic chemistry program for three years.

His research includes mass spectrometry instrumentation development, forensic and biological applications of mass spectrometry and isotope ratio mass spectrometry. His research has appeared in more than 40 publications, more than 100 conference and university presentations and two issued patents. In 2007, he was awarded an NSF CAREER Award.

He has taught several forensic-related mass spectrometry workshops to practicing forensic professionals, has served on several forensic education committees and workshops and is an active forensic chemistry consultant. He has appeared on Nancy Grace Live and his published research on trace human remains was once covered in an episode of “Law and Order SVU.”

For more information about Jackson’s research, contact Glen Jackson at 304-293-9236 or



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9 Jul

Recognizing the growth during the past 20 years of forensic and investigative sciences as a career path, West Virginia University, long a national leader in the field, has established the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science.

Gerald Lang, of WVU’s Research Office, has been tapped to lead the new department.

“This change not only affirms the excellence and national reputation of our forensics program, but also paves the way for new academic programs and the expansion of research and outreach in forensic science,” said Robert Jones, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at WVU.

“Dr. Lang brings considerable administrative skill that will help the department realize its many opportunities for growth,” Jones said. “He played a major role in creating and launching WVU’s FIS program, and has also developed and launched new youth education programs in forensic science.”

In May, entrepreneur and philanthropist Ming Hsieh pledged $250,000 from the Hsieh Family Foundation over the next five years to support exemplary faculty in the department. The Ming Hsieh Faculty Development Fund will assist the Forensic and Investigative Science department in developing new research directions, enhance the student research experience, and support faculty seeking competitive research grant awards.

Since its creation in 1997, the program has been hailed in the national and international media for its teaching innovations. In addition to its 18,000-square-foot laboratory facility, crime scene training facility and faculty with more than 50 years of combined working experience in forensic laboratories, the department already boasts a rigorous curriculum and unique internship partnerships at top labs across the country.

“I am excited about the opportunity to serve as chair of the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science,” Lang said. “The national reputation of our undergraduate and graduate degree programs is evident as students from across the country come to study with our faculty. Our training programs to professionals in the field also receive national acclaim. My goal is to continue to make both traditional and non-traditional student education our number one priority.”

At the undergraduate level, students can choose from three areas of emphasis.

The forensic examiner track prepares students for positions as crime scene analysts, latent fingerprint examiners, forensic photographers, evidence technicians, investigators and law enforcement officers and agents.

The forensic biology track prepares students for positions in forensic labs as DNA analysts.

The forensic chemistry and toxicology track prepares students for positions in forensic labs as forensic chemists, arson analysts and investigators, forensic toxicologists and trace evidence examiners.

The master’s degree program is an extension of the forensic examiner track with emphasis on trace evidence, evidence interpretation and pattern evidence.

Both the undergraduate and master’s degree programs are accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Science – only six institutions offer accredited forensic science programs at both these levels.

In addition to the degree opportunities within the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science, WVU offers programs in:

Information Assurance and Biometrics, using retina and vocal-pattern scans and other genetic signatures as a definitive means of personal identification, through the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.
Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination, bringing white-collar criminals to justice by way of the cost ledger and computer hard drive, through the College of Business and Economics.

The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences also offers a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Investigations. The major allows students to examine the sociology attached to criminal minds while also offering a practical primer of how investigations commence, from the crime scene to the courtroom.

For more information, contact Devon Copeland at 304.293.6867 or



30 May

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Forensic and Investigative Science Program at West Virginia University will host a day camp for students in grades 7-12, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week of July 28-August 1.

The camp is designed to give middle school and high school students hands-on experience, teaching them techniques and methods used by real forensic scientists in the field.

Students will examine biological evidence and trace evidence, learning techniques such as crime scene photography, fingerprinting, tool marks and footwear analysis, and DNA analysis, all taught by WVU faculty members.

“The faculty teaches campers techniques used in crime labs,” said Tina Moroose, teaching assistant professor of Forensic and Investigative Science at WVU.

On Friday, the students will practice what they’ve learned throughout the week, analyzing a mock crime scene at the crime scene houses at the WVU Crime Scene Training Complex.

Spots are still available for the camp. To register, visit There are no requirements for the camp. Any middle or high school student may register.

The cost of the camp is $280 for the entire week, meals included. A discount for additional children is available for families with more than one child. Overnight accommodations are available if needed.

“Not only is (the camp) fun and educational, but it’s also a good way to see if forensics is a field they would like to work in. While they’re here, we tour the facility and students are able to interact with the different faculty members and ask questions, and we take them to the Mountainlair,” she said.

“If students are unsure of what they want to study in college, especially juniors and seniors, they can attend the camp to see if forensics would be something they would like.”

For more information on the camp, contact Tina Moroose, at



Check daily for the latest news from the University. Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

20 May

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The Forensic and Investigative Science Program at West Virginia University is searching for cars to be used at the Crime Scene Training Complex on the Evansdale campus, located directly across from the McDonald’s on University Avenue near Towers.

The Crime Scene Training Complex affords students a unique opportunity to apply and expand on classroom knowledge, evidence collection and processing techniques in a near “real-life” setting. The complex, which features three crime scene houses and a forensic garage, is the largest crime scene training complex in the world.

The Crime Scene Training Complex is currently in great need of automobiles to be used for vehicle processing. Donating a vehicle will allow students to develop skills that are directly applicable in forensic science-related careers, and a chance to put their classroom knowledge to work. The cars must being in running order and able to be driven the length of a city block. Donating a vehicle makes a difference, and the donation is also eligible for a tax deduction of the Kelley Blue Book value of the vehicle.

As a part of the crime scene training experience, the Forensic and Investigative Science Program maintains an accurate depiction of a real crime scene. From floors and walls to fabric and fibers, the scene is designed to guide students through a process that requires many materials not often readily available in the university setting.

This contribution can be made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2015.

For further information on the comprehensive campaign, please or

For more information, contact Casper Venter by emailing or calling 304-293-8595.



Check daily for the latest news from the University. Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

19 May

Accomplished entrepreneur and philanthropist Ming Hsieh has pledged $250,000 from the Hsieh Family Foundation over the next five years to support exemplary faculty in the Forensic and Investigative Science Program.

The Ming Hsieh Faculty Development Fund will support critical investments that enhance the ability of faculty to successfully obtain competitive research grant awards.

“This donation will greatly assist the Forensic & Investigative Science Department in developing new research directions, enhance the research experience of our students, and grow the scientific support for the greater forensic science community,” said Keith Morris, Ming Hsieh Distinguished Professor of Forensic and Investigative Science.

“We are indebted to Ming for his vision of forensic science and his significant contributions to our program.”

In June, Forensic and Investigative Science will officially become a department to better reflect its national reputation and to lay the foundation for its expansion of research and outreach.

Born in China, Hsieh co-founded Cogent Inc., a manufacturer of automated fingerprint identification systems, and served as CEO and chairman until 2010 when Cogent was purchased by 3M.

Under his leadership, Cogent became a leading provider of biometrics identification systems and solutions to government, law enforcement agencies and other worldwide organizations.

Hsieh developed a longstanding interest in training, mentoring and nurturing the next generation of forensic scientists. This desire fueled his generosity toward WVU. He has given the University more than $5.5 million, including contributions for the construction of Ming Hsieh Hall on the downtown campus in 2007 and continued faculty support.

He has also established two distinguished professorships in teaching and research for the Forensic and Investigative Science Department, and made possible a gift from Cogent to develop a state-of-the-art teaching and research facility for the program’s home in Oglebay Hall.

The Hsieh Family Foundation has donated more than $100 million to high schools, research institutions and universities. Hsieh has served on the University of Southern California Board of Trustees since 2007 and on the Board of Trustees of Fudan University since 2011.

In 2012, he received an honorary doctorate of science from WVU.

This contribution was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign, which is being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University, runs through December 2015.

For further information on the comprehensive campaign, please visit or



Check daily for the latest news from the University. Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

11 Feb

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Is forensic shoeprint evidence discriminating?

Jacqueline Speir, assistant professor in the Forensic and Investigative Science Program at West Virginia University, has been awarded roughly $389,000 in grant funds to conduct research that will help reveal the forensic value of footwear evidence.

According to Speir, “popular culture has predisposed the public to the value of forensic linkages based on fingerprints and DNA, but the ability of shoeprint evidence to create similar linkages is less well characterized.”

To contest this, the goal of her research, she said, is to better understand what is termed the “discrimination potential” of shoeprint evidence. To determine this, Speir and her research group will collect, characterize and compare randomly acquired accidental characteristics (such as tears, nicks, and other forms of damage that result from wear) on the outsoles of hundreds of shoes.

Bottom of shoe

Once collected, this data will provide insights into how well footwear impressions deposited at crime scenes can be linked to a single donor shoe (the suspect). “If I examined two outsoles, yours and mine, and there was a great deal of similarity between them, the discrimination potential of the shoes would be low, and I certainly don’t want to be charged with a crime you committed,” Speir said.

Speir’s research group, funded over the next two-and-a-half years, will objectively evaluate the similarity of accidental patterns present on shoes and those imparted to impressions left during the commission of a crime, as well as between impressions collected from different donors.

Speir joined the Forensic and Investigative Science Program in August of 2012 and holds a Ph.D. from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

For more information, contact Jacqueline Speir, at



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27 Jan

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –A West Virginia University professor has been named to the first ever National Commission on Forensic Science, a top-level federal advising committee designed to strengthen forensic science in the United States.

Suzanne Bell, an associate professor in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry, is one of 35 members, ranging from professors to judges to federal lab workers. They were chosen from more than 300 applicants.

She applied in March of 2013 and was notified in December.

“I had assumed that I wasn’t selected. I heard how many applications were received and I thought ‘I don’t have a chance.’ I was stunned, but I was happy.”

Members of the commission will work to improve the practice of forensic science by developing guidance concerning the intersections between forensic science and the criminal justice system.

The commission also will work to develop policy recommendations for the U.S. Attorney General, including uniform codes for professional responsibility and requirements for formal training and certification.

“The primary thing I’m interested in is bringing more fundamental science to forensic science, both as research and in practice. If we can integrate fundamental science into forensic science, the other problems will be much easier to solve,” Bell said.

“You have to be a scientist first and foremost. As I tell my students, forensic is easy, science is hard.”

Bell said she would like to see forensic scientists break out of the established routine to discover more effective ways to conduct their work.

“Forensic science practices have become routine; in any kind of a laboratory with a high workload, this is inescapable. However, it is important for us to think about our work in terms of science—be critical about results, to be thoughtful about your results, to be fully honest about your results,” Bell said.

“That is good science.”

“That was really the model that drove a lot of this to begin with. DNA is now a quantitative probabilistic science. This model has and should play a role in other areas of forensic science.”

Before arriving at WVU, Bell was a professor at Eastern Washington University where she worked with the Washington State Patrol to develop a lab on campus.

Bell also has experience working in Los Alamos National Lab as an analytical chemist, and with New Mexico State Police as a forensic chemist and crime scene analyst. She is a fellow in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a member of the American Chemical Society. She currently serves on the international Scientific Working Group for Seized Drug Analysis (SWGDRUG) and is a commissioner on the Forensic Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).

For more information, contact Suzanne Bell, at (304) 293–8606 or



Check daily for the latest news from the University. Follow @WVUToday Twitter.

12 Dec

Prospective December Graduates:

Please join the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences for its graduation reception on December 20 at the Grand Hall of the Museum Education Center on the Evansdale campus. The Museum Education Center is located behind the Creative Arts Center. Several parking lots are available across the street and up from the Center.

Eberly College Graduation Reception
December 20, 2013
1:00 – 2:15 PM
Museum Education Center – Grand Hall
Evansdale Campus

If you plan to attend this reception, please RSVP by Monday, Dec 16, to

8 Jul

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Improperly collecting or mishandling evidence at a crime scene can lead to evidence being thrown out, a case left unsolved and questions unanswered for a victim.

The Forensic Science Initiative at West Virginia University is offering three, full-day training sessions to WVU police officers this summer to ensure they learn the essentials of the skill. The course, “Introduction to Crime Scene Response and Evidence Collection,” was run on June 25 and will run again July 16 and Aug. 7.

“If evidence is mishandled or collected improperly, it can be inadmissible,” said Kelly Ayers, instructional coordinator for West Virginia University Forensic Science Initiative.

The West Virginia State Police Training and Professional Development Committee has approved the course to count toward the officers’ annual in-service training hours required by the state. The training is open to new and experienced officers.

“In-service training is critical to police officers so they can remain proficient in all aspects of their duties,” Ayers said.

Officers will train at the crime scene complex on the Evansdale campus of WVU, where they’ll participate in lectures, hands-on demonstrations and mock crime scene processing.

Following the crime scene processing, officers will present their findings to the rest of the members of the course.

Ayers said FSI is hoping to offer the training workshops regularly to WVU police officers and other agencies throughout the state, particularly those that may not receive training in this area beyond the academy or who do not respond to crime scenes frequently.

WVU FSI is the training, outreach and research effort of Forensic Science at WVU. Its primary mission is to provide free training and continuing education to public forensic service providers.

For more information, contact Kelly Ayers at (304) 293-0323 or



Check daily for the latest news from the University. Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

28 May

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Middle and high school students can learn the tools of crime scene investigation and register for the annual Forensic Science Day Camp at West Virginia University.

Hosted by the Forensic and Investigative Science Program, the camp runs June 10-14 for students in seventh through ninth grades and June 24-28 for students in 10th through 12th grades.

The camp fee is $280, which includes lunch daily and a T-shirt. If more than one student from a family wishes to attend, it is $280 for the first student and $260 for each additional sibling.
The deadline to register is June 10 for the seventh through ninth grade camp session and June 23 for the 10th through 12th grade camp session.
Participants will process “crime scenes” and collect evidence using photography, fingerprinting, tool marks, footwear imprinting, DNA analysis, blood spatter analysis and trace evidence microscopy.

After learning how to handle evidence, campers will process a crime scene at the WVU Forensic Crime Scene Complex.

For an application, please visit

For more information, contact Tina Moroose, camp director, at (304) 293-5346 or



Check daily for the latest news from the University. Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

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