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Forensic Science professor presents research

Nov. 25, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- J. Graham Rankin, a professor in the Marshall University Forensic Science Graduate Program, presented research results at the International Symposium of Fire Investigation Science and Technology meeting at the University of Maryland in October.

The symposium, which emphasizes the application of fire science and technology to fire investigations and analyses, accepted more than 60 papers covering the entire spectrum of fire investigation science and technology.

The international gathering was organized by the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI).

Rankin's presentation is based on research by Dana Greely, who is currently working as a trace evidence chemist for the Hamilton County Coroner's Office in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the Tri-State Fire Academy in Huntington, Greely and Bob Sullivan, a certified fire investigator for the Cabell County Prosecutor's Office, performed a number of controlled burns of gasoline and kerosene on carpet that resulted in "pour patterns" sometimes found at fire scenes where such liquids were used as accelerants.

Her subsequent measurement of the residual liquids in the burned carpet has overturned the traditional wisdom about where to best sample pour patterns at a fire scene.

This research was supported by the cooperative agreement "Interpretation of Ignitable Liquid Residues in Fire Debris Analysis: Effect of Competitive Adsorption, Development of an Expert System and Assessment of the False Positive/Incorrect Assignment Rate," project number 2010-DN-BX-K272 through the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The project is slated to continue through 2013. Five Marshall graduate students currently are participating in the project along with Nicholas Petraco, an associate professor at the City University of New York. Rankin is the principal investigator of the project.