By MARLA PISCIOTTA
For The State Journal
The forensic and investigative science program at West Virginia University became an official academic department, effective July 1, and its already become one of six institutions in the country accredited for programs at both the bachelors and masters levels.
Gerald Lang, who played a major role in creating and launching the program, is the new director/department chairman.
“The university’s science program has been in existence since the mid-1990s,” Lang said.
The program is housed within the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences on the WVU campus.
The science-based program prepares students to work in the forensic science fields such as crime scene and federal and state labs doing analysis of evidence.
“Our students are trained as forensic examiners; forensic chemistry or biology,” Lang said.
At the undergraduate level, students can choose from three areas of emphasis.
The forensic examiner track prepares students for positions as crime scene analysts, latent fingerprint examiners, forensic photographers, evidence technicians, investigators and law enforcement officers and agents.
The forensic biology track prepares students for positions in forensic labs as DNA analysts.
The forensic chemistry and toxicology track prepares students for positions in forensic labs as forensic chemists, arson analysts and investigators, forensic toxicologists and trace evidence examiners.
The master’s degree program is an extension of the forensic examiner track with emphasis on trace evidence, evidence interpretation and pattern evidence.
Since its creation, the program has been hailed in the national and international media for its teaching innovations.
“Our faculty has both academic credentials with collectively over 50 years of experience in crimes scenes,” Lang said.
Lang said the faculty can provide students with the science they need and help them to know what it’s like to work in practical applications.
The crime scene complex on the campus allows for simulated crime scenes. Students can photograph, collect and analyze data.
Lang said all of this is an important part of the students’ work in the lab, and the university’s imaging system allows students to do chemical analysis of compounds.
Lang said faculty members bring the students into their research as part of the education process.
Due to the research being done at the university by the faculty, major research grants have been obtained from several federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, National Institute of Justice and Department Of Defense.
Currently, WVU has admitted 75 first year freshmen to the program.
There are just over 300 students associated with the program, Lang said, and approximately 50 students graduate from the program annually