Original Release Date: May 6, 2022
In episode one of our Strengthening the Forensic Workforce season, Just Science sat down with Dr. José Almirall, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science at Florida International University, and Dr. Sarah Kerrigan, Professor and Chair of the Forensic Science Department at Sam Houston State University and Director of the Institute for Forensic Research, Training and Innovation, to discuss the inception of the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) and chemistry programs in forensic science.
Built on the foundation of the Technical Working Group on Education and Training in Forensic Science, or TWGED, FEPAC became an official standing committee of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and awarded its first accreditation in February 2004. Since then, over 50 undergraduate and master’s level forensic science programs have been accredited in the United States. Listen along as Dr. Almirall and Dr. Kerrigan discuss their roles as founding members and early adopters of FEPAC, training the next generation of forensic chemists, and the importance of expanding the number of forensic science Ph.D. programs.
This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence.
Dr. José R. Almirall is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science (CARFS) at Florida International University (FIU). He was a practicing forensic scientist at the Miami-Dade Police Department Laboratory for 12 years where he testified in over 100 criminal cases in state and federal courts prior to his academic appointment at FIU in 1998. Prof. Almirall teaches analytical chemistry and forensic chemistry courses to undergraduate and graduate students and has served as the graduate program director for the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC)-accredited Master of Science in Forensic Science (MSFS) at FIU. He was the founding Chair of the FEPAC Commission from 2002-2006. Over the last 24 years at FIU, Prof. Almirall has mentored more than 100 researchers (5 visiting professors/scientists on sabbatical, 11 postdoctoral fellows, 31 PhD students, 28 Masters students and 30 undergraduate students) in forensic / analytical chemistry research in his laboratory. Our research interests include the development of methods for the sampling and preconcentration of VOCs associated with drugs and explosives, the unambiguous identification of small molecules of interest to forensic chemists such as illicit drugs using a variety of analytical methods, improving the detection of analytes of interest in the field and the characterization of materials (trace) evidence using a variety of methods. Research interests also include developing statistical analysis tools to improve the interpretation of chemical data. Prof. Almirall and his group have authored more than 155 peer-reviewed publications in analytical and forensic chemistry and contributed to the development and publication of five ASTM standard methods. He has been awarded 7 patents based on technologies developed in his laboratory and is currently working on the commercialization and broader adoption of these technologies. Prof. Almirall serves as the co-Editor-in-Chief of Forensic Chemistry, an Elsevier journal and was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2020.
Dr. Sarah Kerrigan is Chair of the Department of Forensic Science and Director of the Institute for Forensic Research, Training and Innovation (IFRTI) at Sam Houston State University. She received her original training in forensic toxicology at the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory in London, England, and worked as a forensic toxicologist, quality assurance manager and laboratory director in California, New Mexico and Texas. Dr. Kerrigan served as President of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (2011) and the California Association of Toxicologists (2005). She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and currently serves on the Board of Directors. She has been actively engaged in forensic reform issues for over a decade. In 2014 she was appointed to the Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB), the governing body of the Organization for Scientific Area Committees (OSAC), serving on the Executive Committee until the completion of her second term in 2020. She was reappointed to serve on the FSSB again in 2021. Dr. Kerrigan has been a contributing author in numerous forensic science textbooks (including Encyclopedia of Forensic Science, Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Medical-Legal Aspects of Abused Substances, Forensic Nursing, Clarke’s Analysis of Drugs and Poisons) and editor of Principles of Forensic Toxicology. She was an Associate Editor of the Journal of Forensic Sciences until 2021 and serves on the editorial advisory boards of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology and Forensic Toxicology. She is a former Commissioner of the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Dr. Kerrigan was the recipient of the Irving Sunshine Toxicology Award from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in 2002 and received the Rolla N. Harger Award from the AAFS in 2018 for outstanding contributions in forensic toxicology and advancement of the profession. She has served on the Texas Forensic Science Commission for over ten years by appointment of the Texas Attorney General and the Governor.