Forensic Science Graduate Program

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Marshall University Forensic Science Graduate Program ranks number one in the nation on national assessment test scores

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Contact: Mary M. Thomasson, Public Information Officer, Marshall University Forensic Science Center, 304-691-8961 or cell 304-638-1210

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Marshall University Forensic Science Graduate Program has once again been ranked number one in the country compared to other graduate programs participating in the Forensic Science Assessment Test administered earlier this year.

Marshall University was one of eight graduate programs that participated this year in the spring testing cycle. The exam is a national assessment test offered semi-annually by the American Board of Criminalistics.

Marshall’s Forensic Science Graduate Program ranked first in 15 of 18 subject-matter areas that included drugs, crime scene, evidence handling, fire debris, forensic biology, general science, latent prints, legal, pattern evidence, questioned documents, lab operations, firearms/toolmark, quality assurance/quality control, safety and trace evidence.

It is the seventh time in 10 years that Marshall’s nationally recognized program ranked number one in the country on this national examination.

According to the American Board of Criminalistics, graduate and undergraduate programs were ranked separately.

Dr. Terry W. Fenger, director of the program, said the test is useful for assessing the program’s strengths and demonstrating to prospective students and the general public its ability to meet national standards.

“The fact that our students continue to excel on this exam each year demonstrates not only the quality of the program and its students, but the dedication of its full-time faculty and the many adjunct faculty members,” he said. “The program greatly benefits from the input of law enforcement and criminal justice system professionals here locally and across the state.”

Dr. Pamela Staton, program coordinator, said the test scores are evidence of the high quality of students the program recruits and the education the program provides.

“The quality of an academic program can be measured by a program’s achievement of national accreditation as well as how well its students perform on national board examinations,” she said. “The Forensic Science Program at Marshall University has achieved both of these honorable distinctions. This translates into high quality forensic science services for law enforcement, the legal profession, and the public as graduates of this program become certified forensic scientists in the field.”

Staton also said the FSAT provides students with a pre-certification exposure while preparing graduates for the national certification process.

“This may be quite important as other fields of science and technology require professionals to become certified before they can practice,” she said. “This may be true for forensic scientists sometime in the future. ”

Marshall’s Forensic Science Graduate Program is nationally accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission through the American Academy of Forensic Science. The program is one of 17 FEPAC-accredited forensic science graduate programs in the U.S. and the only digital forensics graduate program accredited by FEPAC.

Marshall’s forensic science graduate students who participated in the examination that was administered in spring 2016 are now graduates of the program.

The test is offered to students in their last semester of an academic forensic science program. While seeking their first job, recent college graduates may use their test results to demonstrate their knowledge across a broad range of forensic science disciplines.

For more information about Marshall’s nationally recognized Forensic Science Graduate Program, offering areas of emphasis in DNA analysis, forensic chemistry, digital forensics and crime scene investigation, please visit http://www.marshall.edu/forensics/ or call Staton at 304-691-8931. In addition to being the program coordinator, she is a professor of forensic science in the graduate program.

Forensic Science Student Receives National Award

HUNTINGTON – Marshall University Forensic Science graduate student Kelsey L. Wilkinson of Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, is a 2016 Forensic Sciences Foundation Emerging Forensic Scientist Award winner.

Wilkinson won the award for her presentation titled “Development of a Portable Mobile Phone Forensic Acquisition and Analysis Toolkit Utilizing Open Source Tools.” She delivered the presentation in February at the 17th annual Forensic Sciences Foundation Emerging Forensic Scientist Award Paper Competition during the American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting in Las Vegas, according to a release.

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Faculty achievement: Brunty nominated to digital evidence committee

Joshua Brunty, assistant professor of integrated science and technology, was recently nominated as one of 23 members of the newly formed NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology) Organization for Scientific Area Committee (OSAC) on Digital Evidence.

Since digital evidence plays a growing role in a wide variety of crimes as cell phones, computers, GPS and other digital devices carry increasing amounts of information about everyday lives, in order to support development of standards and guidance for digital forensics, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Department of Justice have named 20 experts to the Digital Evidence Subcommittee of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC).

NIST launched OSAC earlier this year to coordinate development of standards and guidelines for the forensic science community. The Digital Evidence Subcommittee is the last of four in OSAC’s Digital/Multimedia Scientific Area Committee to be established.

The subcommittee’s experts in digital forensics and technology will develop and vet standards for test methods, techniques and protocols, training and more, all related to evidence stored or transmitted in binary form. The subcommittee will then recommend standards and guidance to the OSAC’s Scientific Area Committees and Forensic Science Standards Board, its governing body. Once approved, the documents will be included in an OSAC Registry of Approved Standards and its Registry of Approved Guidelines.

The new appointees were selected by members of the Digital/Multimedia Scientific Area Committee with the concurrence of NIST, the Justice Department and the Forensic Science Standards Board. Subcommittee members normally will serve three-year terms. Members of this initial group will serve two, three, or four-year terms.

The five Scientific Area Committees will hold public meetings Feb. 16 and 17 during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, in Orlando, Florida.

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Marshall Ph.D Student Receives Chancellor’s Scholarship

Tenacious.  Passionate. Driven.  These are the words that Sean Piwarski uses to describe himself.

Piwarski is this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship, given to a student in Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Program. The Chancellor’s Scholar Program is intended to recruit, educate and graduate underrepresented minority students in doctoral programs.  It offers a substantial tuition benefit and stipend as well as professional research and career development opportunities and a strong support network.  Further, it aims to provide support as the student transitions from his or her education into university faculty or administration roles.

Piwarski grew up in a bilingual, Hispanic household in California. He said that when he was a youngster, his mother provided “a lot of love” that allowed him to take risks and explore boundaries, while ensuring that he remained polite and stayed on the right path.  He was recruited to California Lutheran University on a football scholarship, where he double-majored in biology and chemistry.

One of his biggest influences was Dr. John Tannaci, who taught organic chemistry at California Lutheran, and to Piwarski’s surprise, made it fun and relatable.  Piwarski said that was not something that he often found in his science courses, so one of his goals is to bring that level of passion and interest to a new generation.

With his strong science background, Piwarski came to Marshall University to obtain his master’s degree in forensic science, focusing on toxicology and drug chemistry.  In deciding how to apply the knowledge and skills gained through that program, he realized that a Ph.D. was the logical next step, particularly with the interdisciplinary, team-based science program offered at Marshall.

Piwarski, Sean 2014Currently in his third year of a program that typically takes 5 to 6 years to complete, Piwarski is working with Dr. Travis Salisbury in the Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences cluster.  His research focuses on determining how certain chemical mechanisms in specific toxins may work to stop cancer metastasis.  He said it is a subject close to his heart, since several of his family members have lost battles with cancer.

Piwarski said that being the first Hispanic student to receive the Chancellor’s Scholarship is “very humbling,” and gives him the opportunity to pursue his passions.  He also said he believes that it gives validation to exploring his scientific ideas. When he was younger, he noticed that certain classes were considered to be only for the “smart people.”

“Science isn’t so much about being the smartest person in the room; it’s about tenacity,” Piwarski said.  “Try out creative ideas and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to further what is possible.”

Once he completes the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program, Piwarski says he will pursue an academic position where he can put the “swagger in science” and stimulate the same passion and drive for excellence in others.

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