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First NSF-NIJ Supported Forensic Science Center Launched

Partnership will develop the next generation of forensic science tools for government agencies, non-profits, and private industry

by Florida International University
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Florida International University (FIU) is in partnership with four universities to develop the next generation of forensic science tools for government agencies, non-profits, and private industry.

“At FIU we are passionate about finding solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, including innovations in forensic science,” said FIU president Mark B. Rosenberg. “We’re excited to be in a leadership role collaborating with top researchers around the world to make an impact in this vital field.”

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The Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) partnership received National Science Foundation (NSF) support to create a new Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science, the first NSF-supported center addressing these challenges. Funding for the center is provided in partnership with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science.

First NSF-NIJ supported forensic science center launchedFIU has partnered with four other universities to create a first-of its kind center on forensic science that is supported by the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Justice.Photo courtesy of Florida International University“This is truly a historic moment for research in the forensic sciences. The aim of the new center is to bring industry and government stakeholders in contact with academia to conduct research that is relevant to stakeholder needs,” said chemistry and biochemistry professor José Almirall, the center’s director and the director of FIU’s International Forensic Research Institute. “For a very small investment, our industry and government partners benefit from research being conducted at five universities. Our faculty and students benefit from the collaborations amongst the universities as well as amongst the industry and government partners. This translates into innovation and job offers for our students.”

The new center will draw heavily on the expertise of FIU and its partners, George Washington University and Northeastern University, in the areas of forensic chemistry, forensic microbiology, forensic molecular biology, and forensic psychology. A second site led by the University of South Alabama and its partner, Texas A&M University, will focus on digital forensics and data analysis as well as microbial and decomposition forensics.

“The University of South Alabama is extremely excited about the opportunities opened up through the establishment of this center, and we are thrilled to be one of the two sites selected,” said Lynne Chronister, vice president for research and economic development at the University of South Alabama. “By marrying industry and universities and the digital, physical, social and life sciences, we are confident that innovations in the field of forensic science will move forward exponentially.”

To date, the center has recruited 21 government and industry members including the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, global companies that have relevant research interests or are major suppliers to forensic laboratories, and smaller firms that are looking to pioneer new technology for forensic applications. These members will meet twice a year to vote on which proposals researchers will ultimately pursue.

“During the last decade, the need to bolster fundamental research that will support and improve the forensic sciences has been highlighted at the national level,” said Rebecca Ferrell, NSF program officer for biological anthropology and co-lead of forensic science activities. “Colleagues at the NSF and NIJ have identified the IUCRC as a unique mechanism for addressing this research need and we are excited to pursue this shared interest. The Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science is well-positioned to pursue innovative research within and across the digital, natural, physical, and social sciences that will align with stakeholder interests and help move forensic science forward.”

For FIU, the launching of the new center comes on the heels of the 20th anniversary of its International Forensic Research Institute. Founded in 1997, the institute conducts original research, oversees accredited academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, provides support to law enforcement and the legal communities, and provides continuing education for practicing scientists.