The College of Microscopy Trains Nearly 100 Forensic Scientists with National Institute of Justice Grant

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Additional 100 Trace Evidence Examiners Registered For 2010 Forensics Courses

Criminalistics professionals require ongoing education and training to keep up with new developments and technologies in their field

A year after launching its forensic training program sponsored under a grant from The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), a US Department of Justice agency, the College of Microscopy (COM) has trained 122 trace evidence examiners to date in 10 forensic trace evidence courses. An additional 78 trace evidence examiners are registered for the remaining 2010 courses under the NIJ program.

All of the students' expenses -- including tuition, travel and accommodations -- are paid by the NIJ Forensic Science Training Development and Delivery Program grant. The College of Microscopy, the education division of The McCrone Group and a world leader in materials and forensics analysis, offers forensic courses led by experts in their field and provides students with hands-on experience using state-of-the-art equipment in materials analysis techniques commonly used in trace evidence analysis.

The NIJ Forensic Science Training Development and Delivery Program grant provided funds totaling $684,241 for 200 trace evidence examiners over a two-year period ending in December 2010. By that time COM will have fulfilled the terms of the grant and hopes to secure funding for a second program.

Response to the program has been tremendous, with students representing 44 states and Puerto Rico traveling to Westmont, IL from 71 labs to receive high-quality technical forensic microanalysis training. The program has filled all available seats and maintains a waitlist should any openings become available.

"I greatly enjoyed the scanning electron microscopy course," said John Gilligan of the New York Police Department Forensic Investigation Division in Jamaica, NY. "It was one of the best courses I've taken, even in comparison to my graduate and post-doc classes. I was not at all familiar with the technique when I started the class. After finishing the class I am confident in my ability to successfully use the technique. I would recommend College of Microscopy courses to anyone."

COM's Forensic Microscopy Training Delivery Program (FMTDP) is one of the nation's only continuing education programs to offer American Board of Criminalistics accredited, hands-on laboratory training for forensics trace evidence examiners. The FMTDP emphasizes sample preparation, microscopical characterization, instrumental analysis and practical application.

The FMTDP offers the following 10 forensic training courses under the NIJ grant:

General Microscopy Courses    
COM100: Modern Polarized Light and Chemical Microscopy
COM200: Scanning Electron Microscopy
COM300: Particle Isolation, Manipulation and Mounting
COM600: Infrared Microscopy (FTIR)
COM610: Raman Microscopy

Forensic Trace Evidence Courses    
COM400: Examination of Forensic Trace Evidence Particles
COM401: Hair Comparisons
COM402: Fiber Identification
COM406: Forensic Soil Examination
COM430: Identification of White-Powder Unknowns

The well-rounded COM forensic trace evidence instruction series incorporates a Web-Classroom-Web blended learning program that allows for practical training in trace evidence analysis while reducing time away from casework through distance learning. The NIJ considers both of these to be critical components to the ongoing instruction of forensic personnel. The program starts with Web-based material prior to the course and ensures that the participants are ready to take full advantage of the classroom sessions. The hands-on classroom sessions range from 3 to 4.5 days, follow a traditional classroom format, and provide students with access to COM's state-of-the-art light and electron microscopes and infrared and Raman spectrometers. After receiving classroom instruction, the Web-based post-course follow-up allows students to apply what they learned in class back at their own laboratory. As part of this post-course component, NIJ students are sent six unknown samples to analyze using their laboratory's instrumentation and materials. After ample time to assess the samples, the students meet online with their instructors to discuss the project. This portion of the course has been well received and has allowed COM instructors to further tailor course materials to fit the needs of the trainees.

"Criminalistics professionals require ongoing education and training to keep up with new developments and technologies in their field," said Charles Zona, Dean of the College of Microscopy. "With the NIJ's support, we are able to provide affordable continuing education to both new and seasoned forensic scientists nationwide. They are able to learn from forensic experts and use the latest available techniques and equipment."

COM's instructors are practicing forensic trace evidence examiners who currently use these techniques on a daily basis and are considered to be experts in their field. They are also technical staff members of The McCrone Group's analytical division. The McCrone Group is known worldwide for pioneering innovative particle identification and material analysis methods with a specialty in trace evidence analysis.

Trace evidence examiners from U.S. state and local crime laboratories that are recognized by NIJ and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors qualify for the courses offered under the grant. More details about the program and a review of the courses can be found online at http://www.collegeofmicroscopy.com.

About the College of Microscopy
The College of Microscopy provides education and training to government and industry scientists and technicians worldwide. In addition to an undergraduate program offered in collaboration with Concordia University, The College of Microscopy has more than 35 specialized short-courses in materials analysis. Topics covered include light and electron microscopy, sample preparation and microspectroscopy. The new 40,000 square foot learning center at the College of Microscopy contains classrooms and laboratories with state-of-the-art materials analysis instrumentation. The College of Microscopy is a member of The McCrone Group, which is internationally known as the premier microscopy resource, based in Westmont, Illinois.

For more information or to register for a course, please visit http://www.collegeofmicroscopy.com

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Jessica Reimer, Ph.D.
College of Microscopy
312.997.2436 ext. 107
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Ken Li
College of Microscopy
312.997.2436 ext. 112
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