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Editorial: Forensic center adds to Marshall's reputation

Apr. 04, 2012 @ 10:50 PM

We see it on television police shows every week. Investigators pull critical clues and evidence from computer hard drives or cell phones and crack the case.

What many Tri-State residents do not know is that one of the nation's leading training grounds for that type of work is the Marshall University Forensic Science Center on Charleston Avenue.

The university's program already had gained a national reputation with other areas of forensics, including DNA collection and analysis. But beginning in 2000, classes began on the world of digital forensics -- retrieving and investigating information stored in a wide range of devices, from cameras and computers to video games.

This week, the university announced that the digital forensics program had become the first in the nation to be accredited by Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission. That distinction will help the program attract more grants for research and equipment, but it even more firmly establishes Marshall's graduate and undergraduate programs in the front ranks of forensic programs across the country.

That helps draw students from other states, but it also gives students from the Tri-State an excellent path to an exciting career.

"Marshall University is not just a leader in forensic science in West Virginia but a leader in the nation," U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday during a visit to the Forensic Center. "There's not a person who will graduate from this program that won't have people knocking on their door to come work for them."

The Forensic Center also has grown as a resource to law enforcement organizations in our area and other parts of the country as well. The university lab already does DNA work for the state and trains law enforcement personnel on handling DNA evidence. The center also has partnered with the Police Department in Huntington, Washington and other cities on special investigation projects, such as solving old property crime cases by testing blood particles or other genetic evidence left behind.

In the same way, the digital forensic program has worked with the State Police on various types of cyber crime cases, including finding child pornography stored on computers or analysis of cell phones seized in drug cases.

Director Dr. Terry Fenger noted this week that the accrediting commission views Marshall's digital forensics program as a model that other schools can follow.

That should be a great point of pride for Fenger, who has been the driving force in building the program, and for the university and Marshall supporters, as well.

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