Pandemic doesn’t slow down Global Forensic and Justice Center


The pace of scientific inquiry at the Global Forensic and Justice Center has not slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s National Forensic Science Technology Center was awarded 56 percent of 131 proposals it submitted for a total of $29 million in new funding secured for FIU, according to GFJC director Kevin Lothridge – one of FIU’s top funded principal investigators.

Subject matter experts and logistical staff that support military training efforts stepped forward. With safety measures in place, NFSTC@FIU was able to host 28 trainings for nearly 300 students.

Pivoting to online and hybrid learning meant developing 160 hours of new curriculum and producing more than 400 educational and training videos. Zoom was utilized for international trainings, which allowed Department of State work to progress even with travel limitations in place.

Faculty and students at the International Forensic Research Institute clocked more than 800 training and 150 outreach hours, all while adding two new courses – Wildlife Conservation and Crime and Forensic Science – to the curriculum.

The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission accredited the IFRI undergraduate Forensic Science Certificate and the Master of Science in Forensic Science for another five years. The Professionals Science Masters – Forensic Science program enrolled a new cohort of 16. FIU and GFJC’s collaboration with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals launched a Veterinary Forensics Professional Science Masters track, set to open later this year.

COVID detection

In direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the canine detection research team quickly trained dogs to sniff out the coronavirus. Using discarded masks from Baptist Health, the dogs can positively identify contaminated material with incredible accuracy. The research gained media exposure from around the world.

With contact tracers in short supply, the legal psychology team developed a free DIY contract tracing tool based on the science of memory recall. CogTracer launched in late 2020 in English. It is now available for speakers of Spanish, Portuguese and Swedish, with Korean coming soon.

The GFJC’s signature event – Forensic Science Symposium – was slated to be an in-person event in June 2020. But in just three months’ time, the event was moved online and made available for free as professionals struggled to earn education units amid pandemic cancellations. More than 1,000 people registered for the live and on-demand sessions, making it the most attended symposium in the event’s history. Plans are underway now for the 10th Annual Forensic Science Symposium.

The need for forensic science never ceases. There’s a resilience to those to practice, teach and train. No matter what lies ahead in 2021, the center unites the sciences for justice under even the most grueling circumstances.