Science Serving Justice

The Rutgers University Crime Lab Unit will provide forensic science technology and training to ensure justice is served

Forensic science graduate student Sherifat Alaka measures the caliber of a cartridge casing with guidance from Kimberlee Moran, director of the program.

By Sam Starnes

Whether training police professionals in fingerprinting techniques or aiding defense attorneys in a criminal case, the Crime Lab Unit on the Rutgers University–Camden campus will focus strictly on the facts. “We are intent on making the forensic laboratory a neutral space,” said Kimberlee Moran, associate teaching professor and director of forensics at Rutgers–Camden. “We are here about the science—science serving justice.”

Moran—who led the creation of a master in forensic science program in 2019, which made Rutgers the first institution of higher education in New Jersey to offer a master’s degree in the discipline—is the champion of the Crime Lab Unit, a Rutgers Big Idea. As a onestop shop of forensic services, the Crime Lab Unit is building a state-of-the-art facility that will provide real-time testing in the areas of fingerprinting, firearms identification, forensic toxicology and chemistry, trace evidence, DNA identification, and forensic anthropology.

By engaging researchers from multiple public agencies and the private sector, the Crime Lab Unit has the potential to influence areas beyond forensic science, informing public policy, social justice, and public health.

Not only will the Crime Lab Unit serve the citizens of New Jersey, it will also fuel research, inform public policy, and provide opportunities for students to learn in a real-world environment—thereby establishing Rutgers as a national leader in forensic science and criminal justice. The Crime Lab Unit held training sessions in August for law enforcement officers from around the state in subjects such as fingerprinting, aquatic death and homicidal drowning investigations, and handling human remains. “This was the first time that these law enforcement agencies have partnered on training not only with the Rutgers University Crime Lab Unit, but with an institution of higher education,” she says. “There is a move in our region toward the concept of public safety professionals, and professional development is a component of that.”

The lab also will serve the New Jersey Innocence Project, recently established on campus with the purpose of exonerating those who were wrongfully convicted and advocating against wrongful convictions. (See this story for more on the Innocence Project). “One of the big criticisms of forensic science in our country is that defense attorneys do not have equal access to science,” Moran said. “We have the ability to meet that need.”

To learn how you can get involved with the Rutgers Crime Lab Unit, please contact Akua Asiamah Andrade, director of development, at andradea@camden.rutgers.edu or 856-225-6322.

 

Posted in: 2021 Fall

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