In recent decades, a rapid transition from fundamental discoveries to forensic method development has improved the quality of evidence in many types of forensic investigations. However, there has also been a call, at the national level, for forensic disciplines to address their scientific limitations and expand fundamental research that can underpin and improve existing and developing forensic applications. Investigators at the University of South Alabama (USA) and Florida International University (FIU), along with affiliated collaborators at Texas A&M University (TAMU), the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC), Northeastern University (NE), and George Washington University (GWU), will address aspects of this broad challenge through the formation of the Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science (CARFS). This Industry University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) will serve as a platform for innovative and, in many cases, interdisciplinary forensic science research activities at the interface of academia, government, and industry. CARFS will initially include digital forensics/data analytics (USA), forensic chemistry (FIU/NE/GWU), forensic molecular biology (FIU/GWU), and forensic microbiology (TAMU/UNT), with the possibility of future expansion to include other forensic disciplines. The Center is anticipated to provide new findings and tools to a range of stakeholders, including forensic science practitioners, research laboratories, industrial partners, and government and private forensic science end users, and will ultimately support safety and justice for the nation. The Center's research sites will also provide training opportunities to a diverse group of students, thus supporting the pipeline of future forensic researchers.
As part of CARFS, the USA site, including affiliates at TAMU and UNTHSC, will focus on digital and microbial forensics. At USA, research will focus on Digital Forensic Information Intelligence, including the development, testing, and implementation of novel approaches to understand not only how devices, information systems, and software can be compromised, but also how one can reliably determine how those compromises occurred. The research will support the development of new technologies with potentially cross cutting industry impact: (1) mobile devices, (2) additive manufacturing, (3) medical devices, (4) transportation systems, as well as (5) generation and storage of large scale data sets (forensic microbiology). At TAMU and UNTHSC, research will focus on forensically important phenomena of decomposition and ecological recycling of vertebrate carrion, to support human identification and source attribution; taphonomy; counterterrorism/drug interdiction; and validation services. The research will address scientific challenges in forensics as well as applications in broader areas of human importance (e.g., food safety, engineering, structural integrity, agriculture). Across the six institutions involved in CARFS there is also potential for innovative projects that span and integrate digital and laboratory sciences.
This grant is jointly supported by NSF (Division of Chemistry, Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate; and Division Of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate) and the National Institute of Justice (Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences).