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Uncovering the Forensic Science Center

The Parthenon

Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 15:02

The Forensic Science Center is a building many students forget about since it is not located on the main Marshall campus. But it is not only an important part of the university, it is important to both the Huntington and West Virginia State Police.

The center offers various areas of emphasis, including DNA, digital forensics, forensic chemistry and crime scene investigation.

"It is a two year program that students come in with a bachelor's degree usually with chemistry, biology, physics, and so forth," said Terry Fenger, Marshall University Forensic Science Center director.

The forensics program not only aids Marshall students with their education, but it also helps the Huntington Police Department solve crimes.

Fenger said they help the Huntington and West Virginia State police in a couple projects, including DNA testing and digital forensics investigation. Officers and detectives can complete their training at the center.

In DNA testing, the center assists police with DNA samples that are left behind in a property based crime, such as a break-in.  These samples are sent to the Forensic Science Center for review.

In addition to the academic side of the forensics program, there are also laboratories that do DNA testing for criminal casework and DNA testing on convicted offenders for the state of West Virginia.  

The West Virginia State Police also work in conjunction with the digital forensics operation at the center.  They work on cases that involve computers, cells phones and anything that is digital.

"Federal agents send us cases, and we process the digital evidence," Mary Thomasson, of Public Information, said.  

While the crime laboratories are accredited to work with the police, students are not allowed in the crime labs.  Only authorized people in the building can handle real evidence.

Students work in completely separate labs where they are trained on all the equipment they use for the DNA testing.

Updated equipment is very important for the program's success. In order for it to keep everything up to date, companies visit the center to make sure equipment is working perfectly.  

"We have to not only have the equipment that is state of the art, but it has to be maintained" Fenger said.  "It is not only hard but expensive as well."

The Forensic Science Center has students from all over the country, but Fenger encourages Marshall students to apply to the program.  

"It's hard to get into the program but that doesn't mean there's not a lot of qualified people at Marshall," Fenger said.

The center is located on 1401 Forensic Science Drive, near Hal Greer Boulevard.

Allyson Warner can be contacted at warner65@marshall.edu.

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