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Gail Anderson

Gail Anderson's office in SFU's new Centre for Forensic Studies needs a few finishing touches. The high-security facility in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science's nearly complete ASSC1 building will be jointly operated by the School of Criminology and the archaeology department. Faculty and staff will begin moving in this spring, and the centre should be fully open for business later this year.

High-security crime research centre to open

January 25, 2007

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It's not quite ready yet. But when SFU's new Centre for Forensic Studies in the new arts and social sciences complex (ASSC1) opens in a few months, it will be unlike any other criminal research facility anywhere.

Equipped with Canada's first Level 3 biohazard lab and eventually a CT scanner, a scanning electron microscope, a radio-isotope lab and a full imaging lab, "we'll do what regular crime labs cannot do," says Gail Anderson, the centre's likely co-director.

"We'll handle casework they cannot handle—not just regular DNA trace-evidence work, though we'll do that too, but the more degraded DNA samples, the entomology cases, time-of-death analyses and forensic anthropology cases. The work will include domestic and national crimes as well as international crime such as genocide investigation. There is no facility in the world that is similar."

The centre will incorporate three security levels, with the highest—Level 3—requiring passage through a gauntlet of fingerprint scanners, anti-contaminant showers and other high-tech security devices.

The 515 square-metre (5,544 sq. ft.) centre will house the labs of Anderson, a forensic entomologist, forensic anthropologists Lynne Bell and Mark Skinner, the centre's other likely co-director, and forensic archaeologist Dongya Yang.

But it will also serve as a multi-disciplinary base for collaborative work by molecular biologist and biochemist Willie Davidson, forensic botanist Rolf Mathewes, environmental criminologist Pat Brantingham and several other SFU researchers.

It will eventually serve as an investigative resource and training facility for law enforcement agencies and universities throughout the world.

Regular crime labs "are stretched to the limit," says Anderson.

"They do not have the time, staff or mandate to research new techniques, develop new methodologies or handle cases that are not in the scientific mainstream.

"This centre will fill the gap. It will grow and expand forensic science in collaboration with the best scientists in Canada and around the world."

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