This first episode In “Strengthening the Forensic Workforce” season of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Dr. Jose Almirall, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science at Florida International University, and Dr. Sarah Kerrigan, Professor and Chair of the Forensic Science Department at Sam Houston State University and Director of the Institute for Forensic Research, Training and Innovation, who discuss the inception of the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) and chemistry programs in forensic science.
Dr. Almirall and Dr. Kerrigan discuss their roles as founding members and early adopters in training the next generation of forensic chemists, along with the importance of expanding the number of forensic science Ph.D programs. The interview addresses the advantages of FEPAC accreditation, both for the university and for students. Jose Almirall notes that for the university, the accreditation process forces the faculty and the leadership, the administrators, to undergo a periodic reflection on what the curriculum should be in order to meet the needs of the community. For students, accreditation means they know they are getting specialized training in disciplines that are important to the forensic laboratory employers, as well as specialized topics that would normally not be offered in a traditional chemistry or biology program. They also discuss the importance of having interaction between students and forensic laboratories through internship programs. Programs at both of the represented universities involve students in forensic research, much of which is funded through the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ).