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Homeyer - Forensic Science Communications - January 2004

Homeyer - Forensic Science Communications - January 2004

January 2004 - Volume 6 - Number 1

Short Communication

The FBI Visiting Scientist Program Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit

Laboratory Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Quantico, Virginia

Introduction | Meeting National Educational Objectives
Requirements and Application Process
Projects | Accomplishments | Future Directions


A photo of scientist researchingThe Visiting Scientist Program was established in 1982. The Program allowed non-FBI scientists to perform collaborative, scholarly research at the FBI’s Forensic Science Research and Training Center in Quantico, Virginia. Former visiting scientists made significant contributions in researching and developing forensic technologies, methodologies, and quality assurance/quality control.

During the past two years, the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit (CTFSRU) restructured and revitalized the Visiting Scientist Program to meet the forensic research requirements of the FBI’s case-working units and state and local forensic laboratories.

The Visiting Scientist Program has become an outreach program, providing a valuable connection between the FBI Laboratory and academia. The Program offers students (undergraduate and graduate), postgraduates, and faculty members the opportunity to participate in forensic research at the CTFSRU in Quantico, Virginia, using state-of-the-art equipment.

A photo of student in the  Visiting Scientist ProgramThe Program enhances the CTFSRU’s mission by providing additional scientific expertise to complement that of the staff scientists. In exchange, visiting scientists are given a unique work experience and the opportunity to continue their education, enhance their professional development, and become available for future employment in forensic science. Also as a result of these appointments, technology is introduced (or reintroduced) into academic institutions and integrated into campus instruction and research programs.

Experienced scientists guide the visiting scientists’ research by serving as mentors. The visiting scientists spend three months to three years working in the laboratories in Quantico, Virginia. At the end of their tenure, they are required to submit detailed reports and/or technical papers for publishing in peer-reviewed, scientific journals.

Meeting National Educational Objectives

A photo of scientist using computer for researchThe Presidential Executive Order, Facilitating Access to Science and Technology, April 10, 1987, directs federal agencies to initiate programs to give universities and the private sector access to federally funded research, development, and related activities. The intent is to broaden the United States’ technology base by moving state-of-the-art technology from the federal laboratories into the academic and private sectors to encourage the development of new products and processes.

Under Presidential Executive Order, Improving Mathematics and Science Education in Support of the National Education Goals, November 16, 1992, all executive departments and agencies with a scientific mission and who employ a significant number of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are directed to establish training and educational programs to meet the national science and mathematics education goals. This Executive Order specifically mentions the U.S. Department of Energy and encourages the Department to help develop these programs in other agencies.

The U.S. Department of Energy Science Education Enhancement Act and the National Defense Science and Engineering Education Act, both of which are a part of the 1991 National Defense Authorization Act, direct federal agencies to initiate programs that improve education in science, mathematics, and engineering. The intent is to expand the pool of scientists and engineers to meet long-term national needs.

A photo of person in the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education research programThe U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) research program meets these national objectives. The ORISE programs encourage participants to pursue careers in scientific research and development. ORISE program personnel help other federal agencies establish similar programs. Annually ORISE facilitates research participation by students, faculty, and scientific staff at more than 200 laboratories and research centers funded by 12 federal agencies. Some of the participating sponsors include the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Science Foundation.

The FBI established an interagency agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to participate in the science education programs administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

Requirements and Application Process


A postgraduate applicant must have a college degree (associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral) in an appropriate science, engineering, or technology discipline. The degree must have been awarded within three years of the desired starting date.

An applicant for a student appointment must be in good standing at an accredited American college, university, or technical institute and be in an academic program leading to an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degree. Applicants should be at least 18 years old and have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher (based on a scale where A = 4.0).

Faculty appointments are available to faculty members of an accredited American college or university.

Other applicants, including established scientists and engineers interested in new training activities, are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Disciplines appropriate to the program include, but are not limited to, the chemical, physical, biological, environmental, and computer sciences, including engineering and supporting disciplines.

The Visiting Scientist Program is an equal opportunity open to all qualified people without regard to race, sex, religion, color, age, physical or mental disability, or national origin. Applicants must be a United States citizen and be able to pass a security clearance.


Visiting Scientist, Photo 5 of 6Visiting scientists receive a monthly stipend that varies depending on degree level, discipline, project area, and experience. Stipends are normally increased by 5 percent annually. Stipends for part-time appointments are prorated based on the percentage of full-time participation. Stipends are reported to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as fellowship awards, and no federal income taxes are withheld by ORISE.

College and university faculty participants and other established scientists or engineers receive a monthly stipend based on their regular salaries. Participants with sabbatical leave appointments are expected to have at least half of their salary paid by their home institutions.

Inbound travel and moving expenses from the applicant’s home or school to Virginia may be reimbursed according to the ORISE travel and moving policies and may be limited by the FBI’s CTFSRU. Participants may also be eligible for limited reimbursement for travel to scientific meetings and for other travel related to their appointments. All travel must be approved by the FBI’s CTFSRU and ORISE. Reimbursement is made according to the ORISE travel policy.

Participants will accrue eight hours of personal time for every month of full-time attendance. The leave may be used at their discretion, subject to the approval of their mentor. All participants are given leave on federal holidays. Sick leave may be approved by the mentor.

Appointment Period

Postgraduate appointments are typically for one year, renewable for up to two additional years on recommendation of the CTFSRU. Student and faculty appointments are normally for 10 to 12 weeks during the summer; appointments during the academic year are also available. Continuous participation for student appointments is limited to a maximum cumulative participation of 36 months. Part-time appointments can also be made. All appointments are subject to the availability of funds and may be terminated if appropriated funds become unavailable.

Application and Selection Procedure

Visiting Scientist, Photo 6 of 6An applicant interested in the postgraduate, student, or faculty program should contact ORISE for general information and an application packet. The application may be obtained online at The completed application and supporting materials, including a current resume, university transcripts, and three references, must be submitted to ORISE.

Applications are received, processed, and reviewed by ORISE for eligibility and completeness. Applications are also reviewed by CTFSRU.

The final selection of participants is made by the CTFSRU in cooperation with ORISE based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, scientific and technical background and experience; accomplishments; academic records; recommendations; compatibility of the applicant’s background with the interests of the CTFSRU; and the availability of funds, programs, staff, and facilities. Those selected are offered appointments by ORISE.

The completed application is used for the purpose of selecting participants and administering the program and is reproduced solely for that purpose. Disclosure of such information is made subject to Public Law 93-579 (the Privacy Act of 1974) and the U.S. Department of Energy regulations as published in the Federal Register on September 30, 1977.

Conditions and Obligations

All contingencies for an appointment offer must be met before a candidate can begin work. For example, the university must send academic transcripts.

All assignments require a security clearance. The FBI’s CTFSRU is responsible for obtaining clearances for participants. A completed SF-86 (Questionnaire for National Security Positions) and two fingerprint cards, which the CTFSRU will provide, are required.

Participants become administratively associated with ORISE through a letter of appointment and a Terms of Appointment. They receive guest appointments at the FBI’s CTFSRU and do not enter into an employer/employee relationship with the FBI’s CTFSRU, ORISE, ORISE-associated universities, the U.S. Department of Energy, or any other office or agency.

Participants are required to show proof of health/medical insurance.

Appointments require a 3- to 12-month full-time commitment to the program. The basic activities of the projects must be accomplished at the CTFSRU in Quantico, Virginia. The appointee’s performance must be conducted in a manner and according to a time schedule that meets the overall requirements of the FBI’s CTFSRU. All participants will be required to read the FBI’s CTFSRU safety manual and to strictly adhere to the established protocols for laboratory safety and the disposal of hazardous waste.

Participants are required to sign and abide by the appointment letter and the Terms of Appointment that includes a liability disclaimer and other documents required by the FBI’s CTFSRU. Pursuant to Title 35 United States Code, Section 212, no provision of the ORISE Terms of Appointment or any other document required by ORISE to be completed by a participant may contain any provision giving ORISE any rights to inventions made by the participant.

Recent Visiting Scientists’ Projects

ORISE ParticipantCurrent/Previous Academic AffiliationProjectCTFSRU Mentor
Marc Allard, Ph.D.
George Washington University Identification of Mitochondrial Control Region Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms Keith Monson
Rachel Bartholomew, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Cornell University mRNA Profiling in Human Semen Kevin Miller
Robert Boyle, B.S.
(Graduate Student)
University of Strathclyde Evaluation of Dye Terminator Cycle Sequencing Kits for Mitochondrial DNA Analysis Laura Kienker
    Determination of Optimal Amount of Sequencing Reaction Mix for Mitochondrial DNA Sequencing  
Justine Brucker-Serrano, B.S.
(Graduate Student)
Virginia Polytechnic Institute Evaluation of Pipetters, Calibration Methods, and Disposable Pipette Tips Brian Eckenrode
Stacy Denison, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Mayo Clinic Development of a mtDNA Typing Assay for the Luminex 100TM Detection Platform Laura Kienker
Leslie Duplaga
(Undergraduate Student)
Purdue University Evaluation of Three Raman Systems Brian Eckenrode
Gina Egan, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Pennsylvania State University Detection of Peroxide Explosives and Their Residues Mark Miller
James Egan, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Pennsylvania State University Ink Analysis by Capillary Electrophoresis Mark Miller
    The Application of Q-TOF MS/MS to Methods in Forensic Toxicology and Forensic Chemistry  
Robert English, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Johns Hopkins University Development of the Next Generation Portable Instrument for Rapid and Selective Analysis of Chemical Agents and Precursors Brian Eckenrode
    Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs) for Field Detection of Human Remains  
Robert Gillette, B.S.
(Graduate Student)
George Mason University The Analysis of Food Products and Biological Specimens for Poisonous Anions Mark Miller
    IC/MS for the Analysis of Anions and Cations in Explosives and Explosives Residue  
Brooke Goodwin
(Undergraduate Student)
University of Michigan Extraction Time Course Evaluation of DNA Kerri Dugan
Donna Grim, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Michigan State University Ink Analysis by Capillary Electrophoresis Mark Miller
    The Application of Q-TOF MS/MS to Methods in Forensic Toxicology and Forensic Chemistry  
Douglas Hildebrand
(Undergraduate Student)
Virginia Polytechnic and State University Extraction Time Course Evaluation of DNA Kerri Dugan
Kristen Keteles, Ph.D.
University of Central Arkansas Field Validation of the SmartCycler James Robertson
Kelly Langford, B.S.
(Graduate Student)
University of Southern Mississippi/ ProVision Evaluation of a Hyper Spectral Imager Brian Eckenrode
    Hyper Spectral Imaging of Questioned Documents  
Keith Levert, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Louisiana State University Single Nucleotide Polymorphism Analysis via Mass Spectrometry Brian Eckenrode
Elizabeth Long
(Undergraduate Student)
Mary Washington College Effect of Latent Fingerprint Developers and Enhancers on DNA Analysis Laura Kienker
Caitlin MacCarthy
(Undergraduate Student)
Virginia Polytechnic and State University Evaluation of a Commercially Developed Human Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Control Region Typing Kit that uses a Linear Array of Sequence Specific Oligonucleotides (SSO) Probes to Assess Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) Kevin Miller
Kristy Malek, B.S.
(Graduate Student)
John Jay College of Forensic Science Development of Improved Instrumentation for Paint and Polymer Analysis Brian Eckenrode
Jeffrey McDonald, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Indiana University Alternate Mass Spectrometry Methods for Explosives Mark Miller
Kristi Oberbroeckling, B.S.
(Graduate Student)
George Washington University New Mass Spectrometry-Based Methods for Microbiological Analysis Brian Eckenrode
Elizabeth Olivastro, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
University of Connecticut Microarray Analysis of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms Kerri Dugan
Heather Peters, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Wake Forest University Spectral Imaging Edward Bartick
Amiee Potter, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
University of Oregon Small Amplicon Nuclear DNA Markers for Use in Bone Samples Kevin Miller
Danny Ramadan
(Undergraduate Student)
Franklin Marshall College Quantitation of Mitochondrial DNA Kerri Dugan
Scott Ramsey, B.S.
(Graduate Student)
Michigan State University Analysis of the Chemical Composition of Volatile Organic Compounds from Decomposing Human Remains Brian Eckenrode
Keith Ritchie, M.S. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory IC/MS for the Analysis of Anions and Cations in Explosives and Explosives Residue Mark Miller
Mary Russ, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Michigan State University Forensic Application of Isotope Ratio Analysis of Ignitable Liquids Jeffrey McDonald
Erin Sherry, M.S.
(Graduate Student)
George Washington University Development and Evaluation of New Instrumentation for Trace Organic Separation and Detection in the Field Brian Eckenrode
Marcia Swartzwelder, M.S.
(Graduate Student)
Pennsylvania State University Evaluation of Dye Terminator Cycle Sequencing Kits for Mitochondrial DNA Analysis Laura Kienker
Deanna Wade
(Undergraduate Student)
Bridgewater College Evaluation of Dye Terminator Cycle Sequencing Kits for Mitochondrial DNA Analysis Laura Kienker
    Determination of Optimal Amount of Sequencing Reaction Mix For Mitochondrial DNA Sequencing  
Christian Whitchurch, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Ohio University Development and Evaluation of New Instrumentation for Trace Organic Separation and Detection in the Field Brian Eckenrode
Diane Williams, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Virginia Polytechnic Institute Spectrochemical Analysis of Children’s Fingerprints Edward Bartick
Travis Worst, Ph.D.
(Postdoctoral Fellow)
Wake Forest University Microarray Analysis of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms Kerri Dugan

Selected Visiting Scientists’ Accomplishments

Stacy Denison, Ph.D.
Dr. Denison entered the Visiting Scientist Program following a postdoctoral position at the Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Denison’s graduate degree was in Genetics from Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas. While at the CTFSRU, Dr. Denison was developing a mitochondrial DNA typing assay that would interrogate control region single nucleotide polymorphisms using primer extension with the Luminex 100TM detection platform (Luminex Corporation, Austin, Texas). Following her eight-month appointment at the CTFSRU, she accepted a Forensic Biologist II position in the Dallas County Crime Laboratory/Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences.

Robert Gillette, B.S.
Mr. Gillette came to the Visiting Scientist Program from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, where he is pursuing a Master of Science degree in chemistry. The flexibility of the Program is demonstrated by Mr. Gillette’s commitment to his projects at the CTFSRU full-time during the summer months and part-time during the academic years since 2001. Mr. Gillette’s initial project involved validating a method for separating poisonous anions by capillary electrophoresis with ultraviolet detection. Mr. Gillette determined that the method is reliable for forensic casework analysis, and he is preparing a publication for the Journal of Chromatography.

The separation of anions in low explosives and explosives residue using ion chromatography-mass spectrometry (IC-MS) is Mr. Gillette’s current project and the subject of his Master’s degree thesis at George Mason University. In the Visiting Scientist Program, Mr. Gillette uses a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer equipped with an enhanced low mass option specifically designed to detect ions that are smaller than 50 mass units. This sophisticated technology is unavailable at most university laboratories.

Kelly Langford, B.S.
A Bachelor of Science student from the University of Southern Mississippi, Ms. Langford, joined the CTFSRU as an intern under a contract with NASA Stennis Air Force and completed the first phase of a three-phase project evaluating the hyper spectral imaging system. After this contract was completed, Ms. Langford returned as a summer intern and completed the second phase of the imaging project. She was responsible for generating hyper spectral data for the analysis of copy toners, capsaicins, counterfeit passports, questioned documents, and ballpoint-pen inks. She contributed to a presentation made by CTFSRU scientists entitled Hyper Spectral Imaging of Questioned Documents at the 2002 Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopic Societies Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. Ms. Langford is now pursuing a M.S. degree and has joined the CTFSRU once again under the Visiting Scientist Program to complete the third phase of the hyper spectral imaging project that will include micro-scale analyses of questioned documents, hairs, fibers, cosmetics, and latent prints.

Jeffrey McDonald, Ph.D.
As a graduate student in analytical chemistry at Indiana University, Dr. McDonald applied to ORISE for a postdoctoral research position at the CTFSRU. Dr. McDonald began a project on mass spectral analysis alternatives for explosives in the spring of 2002. His project involved developing a method for explosives analysis that was more definitive than those currently used. Because explosives are intentionally designed to break apart in order to release energy, they are very fragile and difficult to analyze. Gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is a powerful technique for finding chemicals in a complex mixture but uses a large amount of heat (energy). The challenge in detecting explosives is to minimize the energy used to analyze them to avoid the breakdown of the explosives. A common result in explosives analysis is that only fragments of the compounds are observed. The direct detection of intact explosives was pursued by experiments with several reagents using chemical ionization mass spectrometry in both positive ion and negative ion mode.

A new chemical ionization reagent has been found that results in the detection of intact explosives molecules more effectively at trace levels. During the method development, improvements have also been found for sampling and separating explosives mixtures. Transition of the new chemical ionization method for investigative casework is being planned as a result of his successful research. Dr. McDonald was recently hired as a permanent employee in the CTFSRU.

Elizabeth Olivastro, Ph.D.
Dr. Olivastro received her Ph.D. from the Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry program at the University of Connecticut Health Center in February 2002. Her dissertation, entitled Studies on properties and mechanisms of resistance of Bacillus subtilis spores, involved extensive investigations into B. subtilis sporulation and spore resistance.

Upon graduating, Dr. Olivastro joined the biology effort of CTFSRU as a visiting scientist. Her main research project involves developing a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) assay for the Y-chromosome that can be used to complement existing DNA analysis techniques. This assay may be especially valuable for analyzing compromised DNA samples. In addition, she is validating the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer microcapillary electrophoresis instrument for case-working use. Currently, capillary electrophoresis is used after DNA amplification of mitochondrial DNA to determine the concentration of amplified DNA. This lab-on-a-chip device, in conjunction with the Agilent DNA 1000 kit, produces results approximately three times faster than the existing protocol. Dr. Olivastro recently accepted a permanent position as a research biologist in the FBI’s CTFSRU.

J. Keith Pinckard, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Pinckard entered the Visiting Scientist Program for a one-month forensic laboratory training experience while in his last year of an Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Residency Program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He was Chief Resident at the time. While in the CTFSRU, Dr. Pinckard learned forensic DNA typing methodologies as well as trace evidence and elemental analysis of materials. After completing the residency program, Dr. Pinckard entered a one-year Forensic Pathology Fellowship program at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. This program will finish in the summer of 2003, and Dr. Pinckard will assume a medical examiner position at the Dallas County Medical Examiner/Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, with a joint appointment as an Assistant Professor of Pathology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

Keith Ritchie, M.S.
Keith Ritchie, an explosives examiner from the United Kingdom Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, was interested in working at the FBI to share ideas and knowledge. The ORISE-VSP gave the CTFSRU a mechanism to bring him into the FBI’s laboratory. Research was framed around a current idea CTFSRU personnel were developing to improve the identification of ions from post-blast debris.

In the fall of 2002, Mr. Ritchie began working on ion chromatography-mass spectrometry (IC-MS) of anions in explosives and explosives residue. His work has helped to encourage use in the United Kingdom of coupled IC-MS for the analysis of explosives.

Erin Sherry, M.S.
While in the Visiting Scientist Program, Ms. Sherry, an M.S. student from the George Washington University, explored new developments in rapid and dynamic ramping methods and gas chromatography instrumentation for field analysis of chemical mixtures of forensic interest. Her research involved separating mixtures such as simulated chemical warfare agents, narcotics, arson accelerants, and weathered alkanes. Ms. Sherry obtained a high level of expertise in gas chromatography with mass spectrometry that effectively supplemented her background in forensics obtained through the George Washington University program. After completing her M.S. degree and publishing in the Journal of Chromatographic Science, Ms. Sherry accepted a position in the Trace Evidence Unit in the FBI’s Laboratory Division.

Marcia Swartzwelder, M.S.
Ms. Swartzwelder came to the Visiting Scientist Program from State College, Pennsylvania, where she was pursuing a Master of Science in Biotechnology at Pennsylvania State University. Her research project in the CTFSRU involved evaluating dye-terminator cycle sequencing kits for mitochondrial DNA analysis. Her six-month appointment in the program fulfilled a requirement for her Master’s degree. Upon graduating, Ms. Swartzwelder accepted a position as a Forensic Technologist working in the Pensacola Regional Operations Center of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Future Directions

Research requests to be addressed by the CTFSRU are continually expanding, and the visiting scientists help staff scientists keep pace with these research demands.

During the 2002 fiscal year, 97 research projects were identified. Congress funded the Program, and 14 visiting scientists were hired. Each scientist was assigned a priority project during the year.

Program funding has been enhanced so that 15 to 20 additional scientists will be offered this opportunity during the 2003 fiscal year. It is anticipated that the Program will continue to fund 30 visiting scientists each year.

The future funding and staffing for the Visiting Scientist Program is expected to increase to meet the needs of the FBI’s CTFSRU and the research requirements of the FBI’s case-working units. The Program has proven to be an integral and vital component of the research capabilities of the CTFSRU.

For additional information contact

Stephen T. Homeyer
Unit Chief


Janet M. Doyle
Program Resources Specialist
Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Quantico, Virginia