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August 28, 2009

Forensics institute partners with national lab

EDMOND — A new partnership is adding fuel to the explosion of interest in studying forensic science at the University of Central Oklahoma.

The university officially formed a partnership between its Forensic Science Institute and the Savannah River National laboratory Thursday at Evans Hall on the UCO campus. The South Carolina laboratory provides research and development for the U.S. Department of Energy, working on national defense objectives such as detecting weapons of mass destruction.

Before the memorandum of agreement signing, FSI Director Dwight Adams said forming the partnership will provide UCO students the opportunity to conduct research with some of the greatest minds in the country.

“The Savannah River National Laboratory is clearly one of the top scientific research laboratories in the United States,” said UCO President W. Roger Webb. He said the university, working with the laboratory, has accepted a higher mission in assisting law enforcement on a national level.

Samit Bhattacharyya, director of the laboratory, said he was excited about having a pipeline to talented university students who will work with their scientists in developing tools for law enforcement. The laboratory’s forte, he said, is not fundamental science but the application of science to solving real problems.

“For example, we were the first national laboratory on the ground at 9/11, helping set up engineering systems for the search and rescue mission,” said Bhattacharyya. The laboratory also builds submersible robots for search missions, he said, such as the one launched after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster over the Atlantic Ocean.

“We are certainly seeing an explosion of interest in forensic science here at UCO,” Adams said after the signing.

The university offered for the first time this semester a course called “weapons of mass destruction forensics” that deals with biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear materials that are part of a criminal or terrorism investigation, he said.

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