University at Albany, State University of New York
Contact UAlbany Directories Calendars & Schedules Visitors Site Index Search
Admissions Academics Research IT Services Libraries Athletics


UAlbany Northeast Regional Forensic Institute Launches First Regional DNA Academy
UAlbany program, supported through the efforts of New York Senator Charles E. Schumer, cuts forensic science training time in half to help meet a critical national shortage

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 16, 2005) -- The University at Albany's Northeast Regional Forensic Institute (NERFI) today presented the inaugural class of its newly established DNA Academy. The class comprises 12 newly hired forensic scientists from the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, who are expected to graduate the Academy in August, 2005.

The DNA Academy was created by NERFI, a collaborative partnership between the University at Albany and the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center founded in 2004 with the support of New York Senator Charles E. Schumer. NERFI is designed to address a nationwide shortage of forensic scientists, which has created critical casework backlogs in labs across the nation. A study conducted by the University at Albany in 2002 called for an additional 9,000 new forensic scientists to address the needs of the nation's forensic crime laboratories. The DNA Academy is designed to shorten the conventional one-on-one mentor training programs from one year to six months, with a dedicated advanced forensic training facility, university-approved curriculum, and a staff of University at Albany faculty and nationally renowned visiting scientists. Students successfully completing the DNA Academy will earn 12 graduate credits and meet all mandated state, national and international accreditation standards for forensic laboratories.

The DNA Academy will continue to train future classes of Massachusetts State Police, and will contract with other police agencies in the coming months.

"Forensic science is the new frontier for law enforcement, and this DNA Academy is a pioneer in providing the top-quality training so important for the field. I am so pleased to see the $1.5 million in federal funding for the Northeast Regional Forensic Institute being put to work so effectively to enhance law enforcement's ability to fight crime," said Senator Schumer, who secured the federal appropriation in 2003.

"The establishment of the Academy is a significant step forward for law enforcement and for the University," said UAlbany President Kermit L. Hall. "We are grateful for the vision and leadership of Senator Schumer in the establishment of this institute. The academy is a rigorous program that showcases the University's strengths in both chemistry and the biological sciences, and demonstrates our commitment to meeting the demands of an evolving society."

NERFI was created by a 2004 National Institute of Justice grant. The National Institute of Justice is the research, development and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant designated $1.5 million for joint use of the University at Albany and the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center to address a critical and ongoing need for highly trained, case-ready forensic laboratories technical personnel.

"DNA technology promises to be the most remarkable crime-fighting tool of the 21st century," said Sarah Hart, Director of the National Institute of Justice. "The President's (George W. Bush) DNA Initiative, a five-year $1 billion investment, will ensure that younger generations of forensic scientists will be trained to help solve crimes with DNA. The Department of Justice is committed to making DNA technology a routine part of investigations, and to keeping the public safe by allowing criminal justice resources to pursue the guilty and exonerate the innocent."

"The enrollment response for our forensics programs in biology and chemistry has been immediate, and the DNA Academy is a natural extension of those programs to serve another audience. I am gratified that the College of Arts and Sciences has the capacity to prepare these much-needed scientists for their careers," said Joan Wick-Pelletier, dean of the College. "It represents an important step toward streamlining the education process to make the most of our resources and those of the state police forces we assist."

The DNA Academy curriculum consists of four modules that deliver 12 graduate credits hours of academic course work. Module 1 is an eight-week distance-learning component that provides the latest theories of forensic DNA technologies. Modules 2 and 3 consist of eight weeks of laboratory instruction held at the University at Albany, employing a "Mirror Laboratory" that utilizes the latest forensic laboratory technologies. The students will analyze evidentiary samples that are identical to the items received at crime scenes and submitted to forensic laboratories -- for example, bloodstains on all types of substrates will be recognized, collected, amplified and analyzed by identical instruments and techniques used in forensic laboratories. A moot court course will then be used to measure and train the court-room testifying competency of all students as per national accreditation guidelines.

The program concludes with a fourth module, a four-week distance-learning component that instructs students in advanced techniques and report writing. Individual segments of the program will also be used to provide professional development programs that are mandated by legislative accreditation criteria. The graduates of the program will be competent to analyze a variety of evidentiary items routinely submitted for DNA analyses when they return to their home laboratories.

"Education is the key to quality in forensic science," said NERFI Interim Director W. Mark Dale. "The DNA Academy is raising the bar on forensic education programs by having the students earn 12 graduate credit hours after completion of the academy."

The University at Albany was the first in the Northeast to deliver a 40-credit graduate program in forensic molecular biology and currently enrolls forensic chemistry students within the Bachelor of Science degree program. The curriculum from the forensic molecular biology program provided the courseware framework for the DNA Academy. Thirty-five students are enrolled in forensic molecular biology and the program, now in its third year, placed graduates in private laboratories, public laboratories, and doctoral programs.


The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages more than 16,000 diverse students in nine degree-granting schools and colleges. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit