Dr. Kunkler comes to Marshall from the Washington DC-Metro area, where she spent the last 6 years working as a Forensic Chemist for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at their National Forensic Laboratory in Dulles, Virginia. Prior to that, she lived in Springfield, Illinois, and worked as a Forensic Scientist for the Illinois State Police for 14 years. During that time, she was honored by being named as Forensic Scientist of the Year for Illinois in 2015, which is an award that recognized her “for her dedication, integrity and leadership that are demonstrated by her very high quality work and unwavering commitment to serve criminal justice agencies statewide.”
Dr. Kunkler has a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, but became interested in field-based instrumentation and applied analytical chemistry as a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Denver in Colorado. For the past 20 years, she has been working in state and federal crime laboratories where her primary duties were analyzing evidence, testifying to her findings, and teaching forensic science concepts to members of the law enforcement community. She is certified in Fire Debris analysis by the American Board of Criminalistics and is an active, contributing member of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science’s (OSAC) Ignitable Liquids, Explosives and Gunshot Residue (ILEGSR) Subcommittee and ASTM International’s E30 Forensic Science committees. In 2021, Dr. Kunkler was honored by OSAC, who presented her with their Individual Contributor Award for “outstanding and extraordinary efforts in support of the OSAC Forensic Science mission.”
Dr. Kunkler will draw on her background in chemistry, along with her many years of experience as a bench-level forensic practitioner, while teaching courses and laboratories that focus on forensic microscopy (e.g., FSC 612), principles of forensic chemistry (e.g., FSC 622), and more advanced topics in forensic trace materials analysis (e.g., FSC 628).
In direct response to needs recently highlighted by critics of forensic science as a discipline, Dr. Kunkler’s academic interests focus on the development of standards, policies, and practical data-driven solutions to problems faced by bench-level forensic science practitioners. She plans for her research group’s projects to focus on topics related to strengthening the scientific foundation of forensic fire debris analysis and establishing measures of its reliability in court. Specifically, Dr. Kunkler’s group will be involved in the expansion of a novel fire debris data interpretation process that is standardized, transparent, and objective. The results of this research will provide a foundation to facilitate the investigation of methods for the development of quantitative measures of reliability, or error rate estimates, for forensic fire debris analysis. Additionally, Dr. Kunkler’s work within national and international standards development organizations will lead to the development of interlaboratory studies that will support and drive her group’s research.