About NIJ's Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences

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Overview of the NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences

The NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences (OIFS) is the federal government’s lead agency for forensic science research and development as well as for the administration of programs that facilitate training, improve laboratory efficiency and reduce backlogs. OIFS' mission is to improve the quality and practice of forensic science through innovative solutions that support research and development, testing and evaluation, technology, information exchange, and the development of training resources for the criminal justice community.

Major Activities of the NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences

OIFS' major activities include funding and conducting research and development, technology transition, and capacity building and technical assistance.

Research and Development. Through the research, development, testing and evaluation process, OIFS provides direct support to crime laboratories and law enforcement agencies to increase their capacity to process high-volume cases and provide needed training in new technologies.

OIFS' research and development efforts focus on three primary goals:

  • Expand the information that can be extracted from traditional types of forensic evidence and quantify its evidentiary value.
  • Develop reliable and widely applicable tools and technologies that allow faster, cheaper and less labor-intensive identification, collection, preservation and analysis of forensic evidence of all kinds, and reduce existing case backlogs. 
  • Strengthen the scientific basis of the forensic science disciplines.

Learn more about our forensic science research and development portfolio and our focus areas.

Capacity Building and Technical Assistance. Assistance and capacity enhancement programs are funded through both competitive and formula processes. They include:

Help Find the Missing

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records.

NIJ also funds the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) Exit Notice, which supports our research and development programs and provides testing, evaluation and technology assistance to forensic laboratories and practitioners in the criminal justice community. One primary goal of the FTCoE is the transition of forensic science technologies into practice to increase utility in labs as well as facilitate effective use of new and innovative techniques and methods for processing and testing forensic evidence.

Collaboration with Peers, Policymakers and Practitioners. OIFS' scientists collaborate with their peers from across the government, industry and academia as well as the other science offices within NIJ. This collaboration ensures that we are both informing the scientific community about the issues faced by criminal justice policymakers and practitioners and bringing in top researchers and uncovering innovation to address those needs.

OIFS also learns from the people who work day-to-day with the issues. We sponsor meetings, workshops and working groups that bring together researchers, policymakers and practitioners. These meetings generate a rich exchange of ideas. They guide future research and help ensure that our research, development and evaluation activities meet real-world needs.

Organization of the NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences

OIFS is led by Office Director Gerald LaPorte and Associate Office Director Heather Waltke and includes a single division, the Research and Technology Support Division.​

OIFS' science staff is supported and augmented by research assistants and fellows. The NIJ Research Assistantship Program provides highly qualified doctoral students with practical and applied research experience. Learn more about the program. NIJ’s fellowship programs provide funding both for external research and for participants to come work at NIJ. Learn more about our fellowship programs.

 NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences Staff Directory

To contact NIJ:

Gerald LaPorteSupervisory Physical Scientist/Office Director
Heather WaltkeSupervisory Physical Scientist/Associate Office Director/Research and Technology Support Division Director
Ingrid HartwellAdministrative Assistant (Contractor)
Danielle McLeod-HenningPhysical Scientist/R&D
Gregory DuttonPhysical Scientist/R&D/Postconviction
Charles HeurichPhysical Scientist/DNA Backlog/Missing Persons/NamUs
Alan SpanbauerPhysical Scientist/Paul Coverdell Program/DNA Backlog
Minh NguyenPhysical Scientist/DNA R&D/DNA Backlog
Frances ScottPhysical Scientist/R&D/Paul Coverdell Program
Jonathan McGrathPolicy Analyst
William LeisersonNIJ Fellow
Danielle WeissContractor
Chad ErnstContractor
Dawn SchwartingContractor
Ruby ChaseContractor
Vanessa CastellanosContractor
Lisa BacheContractor
Anastasia DuPontContractor
Hannah BarcusContractor
Date Modified: October 21​, 2016