A nationally-known forensic scientist has been named to the new position of director of West Virginia Universitys new Forensic Science Initiative. Max M. Houck is a former supervisory scientist with the FBI Laboratory in Washington, D.C. He began his new duties this month.

The Initiative supports research in forensic science and professional training, officials say.

Partnering academic researchers with crime laboratory scientists, the multi-million dollar program will develop new methods for collecting and examining evidence. The Initiative also will provide resources to crime labs and improve the state of forensic science across the nation.

“Max Houck is recognized nationally as one of the best in his profession,”said Michael T. Yura, director of WVU s one-of-a-kind Forensic Identification Degree Program.”We are fortunate to have such a leading expert in forensics on our team.”

Houck, a trace evidence expert and forensic anthropologist , said he is excited at the potential the Initiative presents for the forensic science discipline.”WVU has tremendous resources and is a perfect platform to develop this program,”Houck noted.

Professional training classes will be developed to continue the education and expand the skills of active forensic scientists, he said. Many of the classes will be held at WVU s Crime Scene House, but distance learning modules will also be developed to meet the needs of off-campus professionals.

“The research and training that we will be able to do here will greatly expand the capabilities of state and local forensic science labs across the country,”Houck said.

The Initiative also supports the Technical Working Group for Education and Training in Forensic Science, a multi-agency task force comprised of forensic science educators, crime laboratory directors and forensic professionals. The group is busy developing guidelines for admission, curricula and certification for forensic academic programs.

Houck was assigned to the Trace Evidence Unit at the FBI Laboratory from 1992 to 2001, working over 800 cases. Before joining WVU , he was assigned to Dover Air Force Base to assist with the examination and identification of the victims of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

Before joining the FBI , Houck was the forensic anthropologist and a trace evidence examiner in Texas. One of his cases was coordinating the anthropological recovery and scientific examinations of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

Houck received the FBI s Quality Award and the American Society of Testing and Materials Forensic Science Award in 2000.

He is a graduate of Michigan State University and a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He has co-authored and edited a book of forensic case reviews, Mute Witnesses, published in 2000 by Academic Press.