A West Virginia University students research has found WVU and the state stand poised to become worldwide leaders in the field of biometrics for human identificationan emerging industry thrust into prominence following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Jason Pizatellas internship with the WVU Research Office has enabled him to research all aspects of the science that uses unique physical characteristics as identifiersfrom technology, to research, to legislative support.

“What Jason found was WVU and the state are in a position to have a huge impact, especially in biometrics research,”said Dr. Edwin Rood, director of Research Program Development at WVU , who, along with WVU program manager Sam Cava, oversaw Pizatellas work.

“I cataloged all the assets WVU and the state of West Virginia currently have, or are proposing in the biometrics industry, compared with what other states and higher education institutions are doing. No doubt, we are on the cutting edge,”said Pizatella, a 20-year old junior from Fairmont whose major is political science.

Combining those assets with solid support from the states congressional delegation, WVU could be a real force in biometrics, with facilities that advance, analyze and research identification technology, Pizatella said.

This technology, which uses physical”signatures”like a fingerprint, retinal scans or the veins in a hand, can help single out potential offenders or criminals in public areas without detaining or inconveniencing innocent people, guard sensitive facilities from unauthorized intrusions and protect the national communications infrastructure. Since Sept. 11, 2001, in an effort to increase national security, biometrics has been the major focus of federal officials.

“The state of West Virginia and the biometrics industry go hand in hand,”Pizatella said. In Morgantown, WVU s Center for Identification Research (CITeR), in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF), advances the technology and performance of biometric systems through research, discovery and technology transfer. In addition, the newly formed BiometricsKnowledgeCenter (BknC) at WVU will soon act as the driving force in producing cutting-edge academic research in the field of identification technology. WVU also offers the first-of-its-kind bachelors degree in forensic identification and biometrics.

The Mountain State is also the home of several agencies of the federal government including the Department of Defense Biometrics Fusion Center in Bridgeport, which is a biometrics technology center of excellence, establishing standards and performance measures by testing and evaluating biometric technologies for the departments use; and the FBI Criminal Justice Identification Services (CJIS) Division, which includes the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, the largest division within the FBI .

The West Virginia Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (WV EPSCoR) acquired the largest science and technology grant ever awarded to West Virginia by the NSF . The $9 million grant will provide support for research in biometrics and biomolecularsciences over the next three years at WVU and MarshallUniversity.

WVU also plans to build a research park in which its focus will reflect the Universitys research strengths in such areas as biometrics and homeland security.

“Biometrics, in terms of human identification, became a Pandoras Box after Sept. 11,”Rood noted.”Sure, we knew the technology was there, but we didnt know if there had been any

research done on what works and what doesnt.”

Pizatellas research showed there are few biometrics experts out there and very little

information available on biometrics research, Rood said. On the contrary, there is a lot of information available on biometrics technology and vendors, he added.

“We are in a perfect position to take a leadership role in developing a responsible and doable biometrics research agenda,”Rood added.”We have so much already in place; now we need to achieve more depth.”

According to Rood, areas that need more research include alternative technologies that protect privacy and counter-technologies.

Plans are already in the works to develop a biometrics research agenda. Next spring, WVU will host a workshop in which it hopes to bring 40 of the worlds top biometrics experts to Morgantown to talk about the latest technologies, measures of effectiveness, economics and personal liberties.

Pizatella, a 2000 graduate of EastFairmontHigh School, will be helping to plan the workshop. He will also be spending considerable time this fall tracking pending legislation in Congress pertaining to biometrics research.

“Its exciting to be in on the ground floor of a program where the boundaries are limitless,”Pizatella said.”I think WVU and the state can provide a key service to federal agencies as security issues continue to take center stage across our nation.”