Dr. Kerrigan Appointed to National Board for Forensic Standards

Dr. Sarah Kerrigan
Dr. Sarah Kerrigan

Dr. Sarah Kerrigan, Chair of the Department of Forensic Science at Sam Houston State University, was appointed to a new national organization dedicated to developing standards and guidelines for the forensic science community to improve the scientific basis of evidence used in courts.

Dr. Kerrigan is one of 17 academic researchers and forensic science experts selected by the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Department of Justice to serve on the Forensic Science Standards Board. By working with several resource and scientific committees, the board will develop and approve standards for various forensic disciplines, such as DNA, toxicology, medico-legal death investigation, facial identification, latent fingerprints, firearms and tool marks, and others. The standards will help improve the quality and consistency of forensic evidence and provide a uniform structure for forensic science disciplines.

Two student examine a footprint on a transparency."The appointments to the Forensic Science Standards Board essentially mark a transition from planning to doing," said NIST Acting Director Willie May. "After months of collaboration with the forensic science community, we are bringing to life this new organization that will have a positive impact on the practice of forensic science in the United States.”

Dr. Kerrigan has been a member of the faculty at Sam Houston State University since 2006 and has served on several state and national boards, including the Texas Forensic Science Commission and the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee (NSTC) on Forensic Science, Accreditation and Certification Interagency Working Group (IWG).

Student pours liquid into a test tube.Before joining SHSU, Dr. Kerrigan served as the Director of the State Laboratory in New Mexico, where she was responsible for the blood and breath alcohol program in addition to forensic drug- and alcohol- related medical examiner and criminal casework, and the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services, where she worked as a forensic toxicologist and quality assurance manager. Originally trained at the Scotland Yard Laboratory in London, Dr. Kerrigan has been widely published in the field and has worked in a variety of private sector, academic, and government settings.

Student works on machine in the forensic science lab.“It’s an honor and a privilege to be selected,” said Dr. Kerrigan. “There is a collective optimism among the forensic community to advance our discipline and there is no doubt that this new organization will have measurable impact”

The new board has five members representing the research community, five members who serves as chairs of NIST’s Organization of Scientific Areas Committee (OSAC), six members who represent national forensic science professional organizations, and one ex-official member, Mark Stolorow, Director of OSAC Affairs for NIST.

Staff measure a mandible at the STAFS facility.In February, NIST announced the formation of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees, a collaborative body of more than 600 forensic science practitioners and experts in government, academia and industry to assist in the development of consensus documentary standards and guidelines in forensic science. The committees, which report to the Forensic Science Standards Board, will study the research and measurement standards in each discipline to ensure there is a sufficient scientific basis for results.

Faculty examine biological materials on clothes under a blue light.These committees are charged with investigating five key areas, including Biology/DNA; Chemistry/Instrumental Analysis, Crime Scene/Death Investigations; Information Technology/Multimedia and Physics/Pattern. Other committees involved in the process include human factors, legal resource and quality infrastructure.

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