The Marshall University Forensic Science Center's history is one rooted in education and innovation. In 1989 Huntington, West Virginia saw the first DNA typing case in the state’s history. By 1992, classes in DNA Identification and Drug Toxicology were taught for the West Virginia State Police.
To meet the growing need for forensic scientists, the West Virginia Board of Trustees approved the foundation of the Marshall University Forensic Science Graduate Program in 1994; one of only seven such Master of Science degree programs in the country. The following year the DNA Database and Databank Act of 1995, Senate Bill 252, established the West Virginia Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) under the authority of the West Virginia State Police; designating Marshall University as the DNA typing, testing and research laboratory supporting the West Virginia division of public safety.
Under the direction of Dr. Terry Fenger graduate courses began in 1995. Dr. Fenger started his career with Marshall University in 1979 and has served as director of the Forensic Science department throughout its decade of existence. He also served as chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. In 1997 the Master of Science degree program graduated its first class of Forensic Science students and in 1999 the program moved into its new facilities at Fairfield Stadium featuring a state-of-the-art classroom and Forensic DNA Analysis laboratory.
In 2003, the Forensic Science Center became one of three CODIS Laboratories in the nation to receive ISO accreditation from the National Forensic Science Technology Center. The Forensic Science Center rolled out its Parentage Testing Services to the public in December of 2003, in turn opening up a new aspect of DNA studies at Marshall University. Also in 2003, the Master of Science degree program saw the graduation of its 100th Forensic Science student in the spring, along with the groundbreaking of a new annex featuring two brand new classrooms and a digital evidence laboratory.
Construction of the annex’s ground floor was completed in March of 2004 and students moved in almost immediately. During 2004 the Master of Science degree program underwent a voluntary audit performed by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) through the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).
In February of 2005 the Master of Science degree program was awarded full FEPAC accreditation for a length of five years, making the Master of Science degree program one of few in the country to be FEPAC accredited. Also in the spring of 2005, the Master of Science degree program proudly graduated its ninth class and its 129th Forensic Science student. In spring 2005 the second floor of the Forensic Science Center’s annex was completed, paving the way for new laboratories and employment within MUFSC.
Clearly the Marshall University Forensic Science Center has a lengthy tradition of serving law enforcement, the university, its students, and the community as a whole. We here at the Forensic Science Center look back with great pride on this service and look hopefully towards a future full of possibilities.
The embedded video below includes a look at the Marshall University Forensic Science Center and its offerings to students, law enforcement, professionals and the forensic science community. This video is part of the Marshall University Communications YouTube Channel.
Reprint of Marshall Magazine Spring 2012 Issue used by permission.