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MORGANTOWN, WV -

A West Virginia University professor has been named to the National Commission on Forensic Science.

Associate chemistry professor Suzanne Bell is one of 35 members of the first such advisory panel who were chosen from among more than 300 applicants.

The commission will work to develop guidance on forensic science work involving the criminal justice system.

It also will work on policy recommendations for the U.S. attorney general that include uniform codes of conduct and requirements for formal training and certification.

Nell has a Ph.D. from New Mexico State University. Other members of the commission include law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, forensic science service providers and researchers.

Before coming to WVU in 2003, Bell worked as a professor at Eastern Washington University. She partnered 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. 

A fellow in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a member of the American Chemical Society, she serves on the international Scientific Working Group for Seized Drug Analysis and is a commissioner on the Forensic Education Program Accreditation Commission.

In other news from WVU, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the school has won a National Science Foundation grant to collect and analyze samples following last month's Elk River chemical spill near Charleston with an eye to ensuring such hazards do not turn into disasters.  

Jennifer Weidhass, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at WVU's Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, will lead the research team, along with Lian-Shin Lin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. 

Others collaborating on the project include: James Anderson, director of the Environmental Research Center in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design; Leslie Hopkinson, hydraulics/hydrology; Antarpreet Jutla, hydroepidemology; Radhey Sharma, sediment pollution; Kung Wang, organic chemistry; Stuart Welsh, fish and wildlife services; and Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute. Sample and data collection will be coordinated with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Bureau for Public Health.

About 10,000 gallons of MCHM plus about 300 gallons of a second chemical — PPH, a mixture of polyglycol ethers — leaked into the Elk Jan. 9 from a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries. The site is about a mile upstream from a West Virginia American Water Co. treatment facility providing water to about 300,000 people. 

The $50,000 grant comes from the NSF's chemical, bioengineering, environmental and transport systems division's environmental engineering program.

The NSF grant will allow WVU scientists to immediately travel to the area to begin sampling the water to determine concentrations of the chemical, how effective flushing the chemical from home systems is and how to prevent an incident in the future.

Water and sediment samples will be collected at various locations of the Elk River including near the water intake structure.