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Campus News

$1.5 Million Grant to Support Northeast Regional Forensic Institute at UAlbany

(September 14, 2004)

The Northeast Regional Forensic Institute, a collaborative effort of UAlbany and the New York State Police, has received nearly $1.5 million from the National Institute of Justice to help meet the need for highly trained forensic scientists.

The institute’s mission is to educate students in current industry standards and procedures, conduct research and validation of new forensic techniques, offer competency training for newly hired analysts, and provide continuing education for practicing forensic scientists.

University at Albany Interim President John R. Ryan thanked New York Senator Charles E. Schumer and New York Gov. George E. Pataki for their efforts on behalf of funding the institute.

“The institute is fulfilling its mission of providing expert postgraduate education to dozens of State Police DNA forensic scientists, while offering exciting academic, research, and career opportunities for UAlbany students. In doing so, the program is ensuring a new wave of highly trained forensic scientists for the future. It is also advancing many research opportunities for faculty in all branches of the life sciences,” said Ryan.

“By enhancing law enforcement’s ability to fight crime, this partnership between the New York State Police and the University at Albany will help improve the quality of life across the Northeast. Forensic science is the new frontier of law enforcement and Albany has the chance to be the field’s pioneer. The biggest impediment the forensic field faces is that it doesn’t have enough forensic scientists to process the case backlog. This program will address that, and help put violent criminals behind bars,” said Schumer.

“The establishment of a Regional Forensic Institute will provide a critical source of professional and scientific expertise that will ensure that New York State remains a national leader in innovative approaches to crime reduction and prevention,” said Pataki. “Working with our partners in Congress, we are seeking an additional $5 million grant to increase support for the institute and New York’s 21 DNA labs.”

The collaboration between leading forensic practitioners and academic scientists is essential to the success of the institute and opens another challenging field of study to highly motivated students. The institute, which has a regional focus, is expected to be replicated elsewhere in the nation. The forensic science initiative at UAlbany is based in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I want to thank Governor Pataki for his continued support of new crime-fighting technologies in New York. Because of the Governor’s extremely successful DNA legislation, our lab is busier than ever,” said New York State Police Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett. “ This funding will help the Northeast Regional Forensic Institute keep up with the demand for more trained forensic scientists, which has grown dramatically with the increased number of cases.”

Biology, chemistry, and computer science form the three core disciplines of the new institute. Faculty from these areas will work with the experts at the State Police Forensic Investigation Center on interdisciplinary academic and research programs.

The $1.5 million in funding for the institute, which was announced by Schumer and Pataki on Sept. 9, had been included in the federal appropriations bill that passed in February 2003 and was recently allocated and sent to the institute by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs department.

UAlbany and the New York State Police initially proposed using federal funds for which they applied in 2002 to create the NERFI program, but because of delays, the University and State Police sought out state funds and began work on the institute.

The Department of Justice recently approved their updated plan to use the federal funds to establish “mirror training labs,” where students can train in facilities comparable to those found in the restricted-access facilities of the State Police Forensic Investigation Center adjacent to UAlbany’s campus. The federal funds will be used to create a new forensic chemistry lab for students and to remodel a teaching laboratory in UAlbany’s Chemistry Building. The funds will also support the purchase of laboratory equipment and equipment for distance education, and support existing degree programs in forensic sciences.

The NERFI program will train undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students as well as work with New York State Police employees seeking more forensic training.