Just Trace Evidence from Classroom to Courtroom

Just Trace Evidence from Classroom to Courtroom

Original Release Date: June 10, 2022

In episode six of our Strengthening the Forensic Workforce season, Just Science sat down with Dr. Brooke Kammrath, a Professor of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven and Assistant Director of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, and Dr. Tatiana Trejos, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science at West Virginia University, to discuss career paths for individuals trained in trace evidence analytical methods. 

Trace evidence analysts are tasked with extracting information from small quantity samples like glass, paint, fibers, and gunshot residue, to shed light on what possibly occurred at a crime scene. These analysts utilize chemical, microscopic, and physical comparisons of evidence to make conclusions and provide investigative leads. Listen along as Dr. Kammrath and Dr. Trejos discuss available collegiate courses, such as microscopy and testimony practice, for those interested in trace evidence analysis, and what it takes to succeed. 

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

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Guest Biography

Brooke W. Kammrath, Ph.D., ABC-GKE is a Professor of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Criminalistics, Physical Methods, Forensic Microscopy, Forensic Field Technology and Introduction to Forensic Science. Dr. Kammrath is also the Assistant Director of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, which links scholars, researchers, students, forensic scientists, law enforcement, the legal community, and professional practitioners in many fields to address the scientific and social issues confronting forensic science and the criminal justice system throughout the world. She is a recognized scientific researcher and research mentor who has received nearly 1 million dollars in federal grants awards. She has a varied research agenda that includes the uniting of microscopy with spectroscopy, the identification and characterization of microscopic samples of forensic interest, forensic applications of portable instruments, the statistical analysis of trace, pattern and impression evidence, and investigations into the significance of physical evidence. Additionally, she works as a consulting criminalist, where she is a qualified expert in both state and federal courts. Dr. Kammrath earned her Ph.D. in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Forensic Science from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2013.  She also received a BA in Chemistry from Northwestern University (2000), a MA in Chemistry Education from New York University (2003), a MS in Forensic Science and a MA in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (2007 & 2010), and a MPhil in Criminal Justice from the Graduate Center (2011).  

Dr. Tatiana Trejos is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Forensic and Investigative Sciences at West Virginia University, where she teaches forensic courses for the undergraduate, master's, and doctorate programs. Dr. Trejos believes in learning by doing and creating connections with real-world scenarios by bringing her forensic practitioner and law enforcement expertise to the classroom. Dr. Trejos' long-term research goal is to develop methods that enhance trace evidence's reliability and efficiency, providing valuable data to the criminal justice system and streamlined processes. Her research group focuses on building capacity and applying emerging methods to improve data quality and data usage. Dr. Trejos's main research includes applying statistics to evidence interpretation and the discovery of chemical signatures of forensic materials by spectrochemical methods, such as SEM-EDS, ICP-MS, Laser Ablation ICP-MS u-XRF, Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, and Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS and LC-MS). Glass, paints, polymers, inks, and gunshot residues are among the trace materials investigated in Dr. Trejos' laboratory. Dr. Trejos has received over $2.4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Institute of Justice, and the Department of State. Tatiana Trejos has authored 60 peer-reviewed scientific publications and book chapters in the field of forensic and analytical chemistry. Dr. Trejos has served as a program chair of scientific meetings and guest speaker at several venues worldwide. Dr. Trejos received the prestigious science and technology award "Clodomiro Picado Twight" from the Costa Rican National Academy of Sciences (2015), was listed on the Forensics Colleges' top 10 forensic chemistry professors and received the WVU Eberly College Outstanding Researcher Award (2020). 

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast episode are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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