WVU establishes Forensic & Investigative Science department - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WVU establishes Forensic & Investigative Science department

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West Virginia University has established a Department of Forensic & Investigative Science, recognition of the growth of forensic and investigative sciences as a career path over the past two decades.

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 Eberly College of Arts & Sciences at WVU.

Jones said Lang had 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; and 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, and 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, allowing 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.