By MARLA PISCIOTTA
For The State Journal
Marshall University’s forensic science program is the brainchild of Terry Fenger, who also is its director of the program getting national attention and continuing to grow.
The program includes forensic chemistry, forensic DNA, technology, crime scene investigation and digital devise forensics, also called computer forensics.
Marshall offers a two-year master’s degree program.
“Our students come in with either a bachelor’s degree or a degree in biology or chemistry,” Fenger said.
One of the requirements of a student’s two-year studies is performing an internship during the summer months between the first and second years. Prior to graduation at the end of the second year, students are required to take the Forensic Science Assessment Test, or FSAT.
Six of this year’s Marshall Forensic Science graduates ranked among the top 26 of student test scores throughout the nation. Marshall’s students captured the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings for highest overall test results among 202 students from 16 other forensic science programs that participated in the test.
“This is the fifth time the program achieved the No. 1 ranking in eight years since its students began taking the test in 2007,” Fenger said.
The program ranked No. 1 for overall rankings in the disciplines of controlled substances, trace analysis, toxicology, latent prints and firearms, number two in forensic biology and fire debris and number three in questioned documents.
One of the real benefits to the program, Fenger said, is being able to work on real crime cases.
“We have trained professions doing the case evidence examination on these cases,” Fenger said. “The center has had a long standing with the West Virginia State Police crime lab, which has been very beneficial to our program,” Fenger said.
Fenger said the lab has to have internationally accredited standards in order for students to do case work. The center covers 30,000-square-feet of space used for labs and classrooms.
“Our first class graduated in 1997,” he said. “Since then, 280 students have graduated from the program,” Fenger said.
Fenger said he’s been with the program since 1992.
“Equipment used is state-of-the-art, especially in the area of DNA,” Fenger said.
Fenger said the program is still developing.
Fenger said 95 percent of the students are employed within the first year following graduation in federal or state level labs, and the graduation rate is about 100 percent, which Fenger said is mostly because the students come in to the program with high qualifications.
The university also offers classes in lab management, bio-terrorism, advance photography and advanced firearms analysis classes.