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11 Feb
speir

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 Jacqueline.Speir@mail.wvu.edu.

-WVU-

ma/02/11/14

Check http://wvutoday.wvu.edu daily for the latest news from the University.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

27 Jan
forensic_slideshow

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 Suzanne.Bell@mail.wvu.edu.

-WVU-

ma/01/27/14

Check http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/ 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 Brenda.Riggle@mail.wvu.edu.

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 Kelly.Ayers@mail.wvu.edu.

-WVU-

ma/07/03/13

Check http://wvutoday.wvu.edu 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 http://forensics.wvu.edu/r/download/157238.

For more information, contact Tina Moroose, camp director, at (304) 293-5346 or Tina.Moroose@mail.wvu.edu.

-WVU-

DC/5/28/13

Check http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/ daily for the latest news from the University. Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

24 May

West Virginia University Office of Research & Economic Development announces the Innovation Awards, which recognize WVU faculty, administrators or staff members for their contribution to innovation and/or the commercialization of ideas that benefit the public’s well-being.

For these awards, innovation includes all forms of discovery, creation and production of inventive and progressive ideas, methods, and products that promote society’s growth.

The awards are:

Early Career Innovator Award honors a WVU faculty member who has been employed with the University for six years or less and whose work exemplifies the spirit of innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship.
Established Innovator Award recognizes a WVU faculty member who has been employed here for more than six years and whose recent work has actively contributed to innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship.
Presidential Innovation Service Award honors an administrator, faculty or staff member who has shared expertise and/or mentored faculty members in their pursuit of innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship.

For the application instructions and other award guidelines, click on the following link: http://www.innovation.research.wvu.edu/events/wvu-innovation-awards-guidelines. All applications are due by the close of business July 1.

The winners will each receive $5,000 to support their continuing innovative work. The winners will be recognized at the WVU Innovation Awards Ceremony from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Waterfront Place Hotel.

16 May

Scientist and West Virginia University alumna Jennie Hunter-Cevera will be recognized Sunday with the highest honor an institution can bestow — an honorary degree.

Hunter-Cevera, whose career in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries spans 22 years, will be honored during the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate commencement ceremony. The honorary degree is reserved for eminent individuals with national or international reputations.

She is the founder of Hunter and Associates, a consulting firm focusing on finding integrative solutions to complex problems in the life sciences arena that include sustainability issues.

Hunter-Cevera founded The Biotic Network and Blue Sky Laboratory and spent five years as the head of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

In addition, Hunter-Cevera served for 10 years as the president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. Most recently, she was executive vice president of discovery and analytical sciences, government relations, public relations and corporate development at RTI International.

Hunter-Cevera holds 15 patents in natural products and enzymes. She specializes in screen design for the discovery of natural compounds in the areas of human therapeutics, nutraceuticals, biodefense, sustainable agriculture, bioremediation and bio-catalysis for industrial processes in the food and clothing industries.

Named one of Maryland’s Top 50 Influential People and Top 100 Women, Hunter-Cevera’s other award recognitions include the Porter Award from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) for distinguished research in microbial systematics and taxonomy. She also was elected as a SIM fellow, a member of the ASM Academy of Microbiology and an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow.

Hunter-Cevera completed her bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in microbial ecology from WVU. She earned her doctorate in microbial physiology and biochemistry from Rutgers University. Because of her outstanding academic and professional achievements, she has been named a WVU Distinguished Alumni and Math Lecturer.

Hunter-Cevera will receive her honorary degree at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate commencement at 2 p.m. Sunday, at the WVU Coliseum.

Visitors to http://honorarydegrees.wvu.edu/ can view the history of honorary degrees at WVU, from 1873 to the present.

For more information, contact University Relations/News at 304-293-6997

22 Apr

The country’s economic outlook is still murky and the job market a bit of a wild card, but how is that driving lawmakers’ priorities and how should it factor into yours?

As part of the 4th Annual West Virginia Money Smart Week, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University will host “Building Wealth in Uncertain Economic Times” 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 23 in room G21 Ming Hsieh Hall on the Downtown Campus. The talk is free and open to the public.

Frank Vitale, senior vice president at Clear Mountain Bank in Morgantown and Eberly College alumnus, will moderate the panel discussion.

Mike Mays, director of the Institute for Mathematics Learning, Neil Berch, associate professor of political science ; and Brian Luskey, associate professor of history will discuss economic public policies, historical perspectives on corruption and the raw numbers behind wealth-building.

“We live in a challenging time to save and invest, but our country and our state have prospered through similar circumstances before,” said Robert Jones, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

“The context of why, how, when and what’s next is incredibly valuable and I’m proud to have faculty members in our College that can take a topic that literally hits us in our pockets and build such an interesting knowledge-building opportunity around it.”

“Building Wealth” is the third discussion in the Eberly Ideas series, a unique forum that promotes the exchange of ideas and stimulating debate while highlighting the timely research of some of the College’s all-star faculty.

Dozens of organizations are participating in this year’s West Virginia Money Smart Week. The event aims to educate people about saving, investing, giving and spending.

“In these tough economic times, it’s important to be smart consumers. Money Smart Week events help people learn about developing good financial habits and how to better manage personal finances,” said Susan LeFew, a senior program specialist for the AARP Foundation and a member of the West Virginia Money Smart Week Planning Committee.

To RSVP to attend “Building Wealth in Uncertain Economic Times,” email ECAS@mail.wvu.edu with “Eberly Ideas” in the subject line. Include the name/s of the people attending in the body of the email.

For more information, contact Devon Copeland at 304-293-6867 or Devon.Copeland@mail.wvu.edu

15 Mar

Chemistry is more than just lab coats, beakers and solutions; study of the field can lead to a myriad of career choices and opportunities. On Wednesday, April 17, 2013, from 7:00-8:30 p.m., the West Virginia University C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry will explore those opportunities when it hosts the Nineteenth Annual C. Eugene and Edna P. Bennett Careers for Chemist Program.

This event is free and open to the public and will take place in The Erickson Alumni Center on the Evansdale Campus.

During the event, three professionals with degrees in chemistry will discuss their career trajectories and personal experiences.

“The program is designed to inform our undergraduate and graduate students of the wide variety of potential careers available to them as chemistry majors. It has been a great success over the past eighteen years,” C. Eugene Bennett Chair and Professor Kenneth Showalter, the event organizer said. “In a tightening job market, advice from our guest speakers provides important guidance on career development for our students.”

William Carroll, PhD

William F. Carroll, Jr., holds a doctorate in organic chemistry from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. He is currently vice president, industry issues for Occidental Chemical Corporation and also an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University.

Carroll is chair of the board of directors of the American Chemical Society, and a past president. For ACS, he has chaired the committees on executive compensation, international activities, public affairs and public relations and the executive committee of the board. He has been a member of the Budget and Finance, Pensions and Investments and Audits committees.

He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a member of the advisory board for the Tulane School of Science and Engineering. In 2009, he was chair of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.

He has been a member of a number of committees for the National Research Council of the National Academies. He co-chaired, with Barbara Foster of WVU, the 2011 rewrite of “Prudent Practices in the Laboratory,” the definitive work on laboratory safety in the field.

On behalf of Occidental Chemical Corporation, he has chaired numerous committees for industry associations, including the American Chemistry Council and the Vinyl Institute. He has served on expert groups commissioned by the United Nations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and three states—most recently the California Green Ribbon Science Panel.

Carroll has received the Henry Hill Award, sponsored by the ACS Division of Professional Relations, the Michael Shea Award from the Division of Chemical Technicians, Distinguished Alumni Awards from both Indiana and DePauw Universities and the Vinyl Institute’s Roy T. Gottesman Leadership Award. He is the 2012 recipient of the Harry and Carol Mosher Award from the ACS Santa Clara Valley Section.

He holds two patents, and has over sixty-five publications in the fields of organic electrochemistry, polymer chemistry, combustion chemistry, incineration and plastics recycling.

Dr. Cynthia Graves

Cynthia Graves is an assistant professor in the WVU Department of Surgery. She is currently the director of the General Surgery Residency Program and has held that position since 2003. Graves’ main focus is the education and program development of the General Surgery Residency Program. Her clinical practice focuses on laparoscopic as well as open general surgical and acute care surgery procedures.

Her research interests include education and geriatric surgery. She is co-editor and co-author of the “Step Up to Surgery” textbook, which is currently in preparation for release of its second edition. In conjunction with Dr. Phil Polack, Graves has developed a communication and humanities seminar, offered to incoming first year residents in surgery. Graves was an invited panel discussant for the National Association of Program Directors conference in 2011 and 2012.

In 2007, Graves was awarded the Surgical Educators Award and in 2008 the Department of Surgery Excellence in Student Teaching Award. She has been recognized twice, in 2009 and 2012, by WVU Hospitals, National Doctor’s Day. In 2011, she was selected for membership in the Women in Science and Health Committee. She has also recently been elected to the WVU Faculty Senate.

Graves, a native West Virginian, graduated from WVU with bachelor’s degrees in both biology and chemistry. She received her medical and surgical training at WVU. She completed a trauma/critical care fellowship at the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems in 1995, and spent 7 years providing trauma care at Geisinger Medical Center before returning home to WVU in 2002.

Graves currently resides in Morgantown with her husband and two children who attend University High School. She is an avid Pittsburgh Penguins fan and supporter of the performing arts. Since 2006, she has served as vice president of the Morgantown Hockey Association.

Glen Jackson, PhD

Glen Jackson joined the faculty of WVU in the fall of 2012. He is a Ming Hsieh Distinguished Professor of Forensic and Investigative Science. He holds a joint appointment in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry and the Forensic and Investigative Science Program. Before this appointment, he was an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the Forensic Chemistry Program at Ohio University.

He earned his undergraduate degree in chemical and analytical science at University of Wales, Swansea in the United Kingdom and his master’s degree in analytical chemistry from Ohio University during a year abroad in 1996-1997. He earned his doctorate in analytical chemistry from WVU in 2002.

After completing his doctorate, Jackson worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory before joining the faculty of Ohio University in 2004. He earned early tenure and promotion in 2009, when he also assumed directorship of the FEPAC-accredited Forensic Chemistry Program until his departure in 2012. While at Ohio University, he received the Transformative Faculty Award for his dedication and inspiration of undergraduates and graduate students through his teaching and research.

Jackson’s 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 36 publications, more than 100 conference and university presentations and two issued patents. In 2007, he was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award to construct a new type of miniature, portable mass spectrometer with forensic-related applications. During his eight years at Ohio University, his grants helped secure more than $1.9 million in extramural support from funding agencies.

Jackson currently serves on the science advisory board for Protea Biosciences, Inc., is a panelist and grant reviewer for NSF and is the chair of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) Asilomar Conference Committee and ASMS Fundamentals Interest Group.

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.

The first C. Eugene and Edna P. Bennett Careers for Chemists Program took place in 1995. The program has been made possible through the generosity of C. Eugene Bennett and Edna Bennett Pierce and the Bennett Family, who established in 1994 the C. Eugene and Edna P. Bennett Careers for Chemists Program and the C. Eugene Bennett Chair in Chemistry at West Virginia University. In addition, they have established the C. Eugene Bennett Chemistry Program Enhancement Fund, the C. Eugene Bennett Graduate Fellowship Program in Chemistry and the C. Eugene Bennett Academic Enrichment Endowment through the WVU Foundation.

The WVU Foundation is a private, nonprofit corporation that generates and provides support for WVU.

For more information, contact Kenneth Showalter, at 304-293-0124 or Kenneth.Showalter@mail.wvu.edu

6 Feb

How many times have you seen a case closed on television using a gunshot residue test? Given how frequently it pops up on cop shows, you would think the test is widely used and easy to interpret. On television and in movies, if the suspect has gunshot residue on their hands, they definitely fired the gun.

Surprisingly, current methods of gunshot residue analysis focus on detecting residues from the primer, the part of the cartridge case that ignites the powder, and this residue is easily lost or transferred from one surface to another through contact as simple as a hand shake or high five.

“Results from primer residue analysis alone, the test most frequently used to determine if someone has fired a gun in criminal cases, can be difficult to interpret. For example, a person may have primer residue on their hands or clothing, but it could have gotten there by other means than that person firing a gun,” Suzanne Bell, PhD, said.

Bell, an associate professor at West Virginia University in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry, is currently researching more effective gunshot residue analysis methods with an $181,412 grant from the Research Triangle Institute, International.

“By focusing on the primer residue alone, the organic residues of the gunpowder are ignored,” Bell said. “These organic propellant residues are potentially a rich source of physical evidence.”

Currently, here are no widely accepted tests for the analysis of the organic components of gunshot residue. Bell’s method analyzes the primer residues as well as the organic propellant residues using existing commercial instrumentation already used at airports to screen for explosives. The goal is to combine both pieces of test data to answer more definitively and more quickly, “Did this person fire a gun in the last few hours?” The data is evaluated using statistical methods and neural networks which can be automated for rapid response in field situations like crime scenes or the battlefield.

Bell says that many of the organic components of gunshot residue cling to skin and some are actually absorbed through the skin in the same way drugs in time-release patches are absorbed. Because of this, the organic materials are less likely to be lost or transferred and as such, have the potential to provide a greater level of confidence when trying to determine if a person has or has not recently fired a weapon.

When the trigger of a gun is pulled, the particulate primer residue along with vaporized organic materials from the propellant condenses, with significant amounts ending up on the shooter’s hand. By taking swabs of people’s hands, Bell can test for the organic materials on the surface of the skin or those that may have been absorbed into the skin.

“When complete, this research will help law enforcement and military personnel more definitively determine if a suspect has fired a gun recently,” Bell said.

Bell is conducting her research at Oglebay Hall, the WVU Crime Scene House Complex and local firing ranges with students in the WVU Forensic and Investigative Science Program.

Suzanne Bell received her doctorate in chemistry at New Mexico State in 1991 and joined the Mountaineer family in 2003. She is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a fellow of the American Board of Criminalistics in the area of forensic drug analysis.

For more information, contact Suzanne Bell at 304-293-8606 or Suzanne.Bell@mail.wvu.edu

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