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George Mason University to Open Innovative Forensic Lab

The FARO lab will be the first of its kind in an academic setting

MaryBeth DiDonna
George Mason University student examples of facial reconstruction of skulls in the newly established FARO Forensic Lab merging science and technology.
C2021 Natasha Gilliam, science.gmu.edu

George Mason University has announced a partnership with FARO Technologies, Inc., a company that provides 3D measurement, imaging, and realization solutions for the 3D metrology, AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction), and public safety analytics markets, where they will develop a new forensic science research and training laboratory on the GMU campus. The university’s forensic science program will be the first in the US to offer a 3D course in crime scene documentation.

“FARO approached GMU’s Forensic Science Program in March 2021 to build a relationship in which our program would establish the first collegiate FARO Forensic Lab. This lab is the first of its kind in the world which allows students access to advanced scanning technology in an academic setting for instructional and research purposes,” says Kimberly Rule, associate professor, forensic science program at George Mason University. “FARO technology is the gold standard in 3D laser scanning for forensic science applications. This equipment is used to accurately and quickly document various evidentiary items or areas of interest from small items such as skulls and bones to large indoor or outdoor mock crime scenes.”

The current 700 sq. ft. facility opened in September 2021, on George Mason University’s campus in Fairfax, VA, in Exploratory Hall. The new Life Sciences and Engineering Building, which contains the new FARO Forensic Lab on the Science and Technology GMU campus in Manassas, VA, is estimated to be completed in December 2024, and will measure approximately 1,200 sq. ft. The overall cost of new building to include the new FARO Forensic Lab is $6,216,000. The new building was designed by EYP Inc., which also provided advising A/E services. Skanska USA Building, Inc. is the general contractor for the project. The university project manager is Virginia Steele and the university planner is Laura Manno; GMU’s Facilities completed the painting in the current lab with FARO Blue and Laser Blue paint theme.   

GMU's Forensic Science Program ribbon cutting ceremony and demonstrations of the first collegiate FARO Forensic Lab incorporating 3D laser scanning technology for instructional and research advancement.
C2021 Natasha Gilliam, science.gmu.edu

Rule describes the unique setup of the GMU FARO Forensic Lab, the first in the world to be established in an academic institution. “As part of the design of the new FARO Forensic Lab in the new building, our Program is dedicating specific locations in the lab to use each piece of scanning equipment, while ensuring proper operating space to maneuver the equipment to produce quality 360-degree scans of the objects,” she says.

The design of the lab was a collaborative effort, says Rule. “The intentional design of the new FARO Forensic Lab highlights the importance of instructors’ capability to effectively demonstrate the operation of the scanning equipment as well as the usage of the scanning software to all students,” she says, adding that GMU’s Forensic Science Program faculty and staff have served on the design committee of the new since the start of the building design. “EYP Inc. has been very receptive to our unique needs for this facility,” she continues. “During the design phase, GMU has participated in several design meetings with EYP Inc. progressing from the general layout and square footage to fine details, such as the desired audio/visual requirements to provide the most effective instructional experience for the students.” The committee also collaborated with the College of Science Dean’s Office, College of Science Facilities, and University Facilities Offices. 

Students, faculty, and law enforcement partners commemorate the innovative collaboration between George Mason University and FARO.
C2021 NATASHA GILLIAM, SCIENCE.GMU.EDU

As the first lab of its kind, the GMU facility is blazing a trail in the design of the lab. “Since there are no previous facilities to consider, our Forensic Science Program was proactive in creating an innovative design to ensure an exemplary learning environment while incorporating usage of the scanning technology,” says Rule. “The mission of our Forensic Science Program is to provide outstanding scholarship to graduate and undergraduate students, with both an in-depth theoretical as well as operational foundation. As the field of forensic science is growing rapidly and new technology is being developed on a regular basis, our Forensic Science Program specializes in providing the most current, accepted practices and methodologies in the application of forensic science techniques. The FARO Forensic Lab will expand our capabilities towards completing our mission.”