The University of Tampa’s Forensic Science degree program has a major infusion of analysis equipment and capabilities this semester. The National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) donated eight DNA, drugs and explosives analysis instruments including gas chromatograph mass spectrometers (GS/MS) and genetic analyzers, totaling more than $170,000.
“All of the equipment we donated to UT is of the type and quality used by forensic professionals on an almost daily basis, including at our labs in Largo,” explains Kevin Lothridge, CEO of NFSTC. “By putting this equipment into the hands of future technicians and analysts, we can provide them with hands-on experience before they even step foot in their first operational lab.”
NFSTC was joined by the FBI, Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office, and Thermo Fisher Scientific in donating a total of 12 instruments to the department. The current value of all the used equipment is $230,100.
“If the University were to purchase this outright, it would be close to $1 million in upfront costs,” says Dr. Kenyon Evans-Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tampa. “Our forensic science degree program is rapidly growing. The GC-MS instruments in particular are very useful donations. Our current GC/MS instrument is not sufficient for most of the needs of the department. The extent and generosity of the donations was an unexpected windfall, providing us with equipment superior to what we have now.”
Once the instruments are commissioned and installed, students won’t be the only ones benefitting from the donation. UT faculty will also have access to further their own research for validation methods for forensic analysis of drugs and explosives. In addition to forensic science classes, the equipment will be used in courses such as organic chemistry, physical chemistry, advanced instrumental chemistry and other science courses.
The donation comes ahead of the department’s audit to be an accredited program by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Currently, 41 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs around the country are FEPAC accredited. From application to accreditation, the process takes about a year to complete and includes education program review and site visits. UT’s site visit was completed October 2014.