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NIST to Establish Research Center of Excellence for Forensic Science

A NIST Standard Reference Material 2460 "standard bullet" mounted on a blue stub. Each one has six signature markings typically found in a fired bullet. SRM 2460 is intended primarily for use as a check for crime laboratories to help verify that the computerized optical equipment for bullet imaging and profiling is operating properly.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced a competition to create a Forensic Science Center of Excellence dedicated to collaborative, interdisciplinary research. The center’s mission will be to establish a firm scientific foundation for the analytic techniques used in two important branches of forensic science, pattern evidence and digital evidence.

The seminal 2009 National Research Council report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States – A Path Forward called for a thorough examination of the techniques used in forensic analysis to better understand their strengths and limitations. It also called for establishing scientifically rigorous standards and practices, including the development of tools and methods to better standardize analytical protocols.

Forensic investigations involve the collection of evidence, measurements of the evidence, analysis of those measurements and the determination of conclusions of known validity. One important goal is to develop so-called “probabilistic methods”—techniques that produce a quantifiable assessment of the likelihood that a given method produced a correct result. Forensic DNA analyses, for example, typically report the probability that an apparent match between two separate samples could come about by chance.

The new NIST-sponsored center will focus on developing probabilistic methods for dealing with pattern evidence and digital evidence. Pattern evidence encompasses much of what is typically thought of as forensic evidence: fingerprints, shoeprints, tire marks, tool marks, shell casing or bullet striations—anything that relies on comparing two sets of markings. Digital evidence includes such things as the data on cellphones or personal computers.

The planned center will work on scientific advances in probabilistic methods and information technology tools, as well as the necessary infrastructure to educate and train forensic science practitioners in using the new methods. The center will help expand NIST’s expertise in the field and promote interactions between NIST, academia and various stakeholders in the forensic science community.

This Center of Excellence is one of several NIST plans to establish to provide an interdisciplinary environment where researchers from NIST, academia, industry and government can collaborate on emerging areas of basic and applied research and innovations in measurement science. On Dec. 3, 2013, NIST announced the establishment of a Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD) under a consortium led by Northwestern University that will pursue advanced materials research. A second NIST Center of Excellence to be focused on community disaster resilience is the subject of a current competition.

MBDA National Director Concludes Trip Connecting California Minority-Owned Businesses with Commerce Department Resources

MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo addressing the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Yesterday, MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo concluded her week-long tour of California where she spoke to local businesses and community leaders about the Obama Administration’s work to spur continued economic growth and job creation through support of exporters, entrepreneurs, and small, women- and minority-owned businesses. 

Earlier this week, Castillo joined U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in Oakland where the Secretary delivered remarks highlighting a number of Commerce Department resources available to help foster economic growth among minority-owned businesses. The Secretary also discussed the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” a bold policy agenda focused on boosting trade and investment, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and unleashing more government data. 

Following the Secretary’s remarks in Oakland, Castillo led a panel discussion on economic development that helped to connect local business leaders and economic development organizations with the expertise of the Department and its resources. The forum featured Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s (OPIC) Director of Corporate Development, Alison Germak; Port of Oakland’s Director of Aviation, Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. 

U.S. Commerce Department Invests $2.8 Million to Foster Innovation in Louisiana and Massachusetts

U.S. Commerce Department Invests $2.8 Million to Foster Innovation in Louisiana and Massachusetts

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced $2.8 million in Economic Development Administration (EDA) investments to support projects that will foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Louisiana and Massachusetts.

“The Obama Administration and Commerce Department have prioritized supporting American innovation, which is the key driver of U.S. competitiveness, job growth and long-term economic growth,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The EDA investments announced today will support critical infrastructure and manufacturing projects that use innovation to help attract investment and create jobs in Louisiana and Massachusetts.”

The investments announced today include the following:

  • In Vidalia, Louisiana, EDA is investing $1.2 million to help construct the 5,700-square-foot Vidalia Technology Center that will function as an incubator to help entrepreneurs to compete globally and create viable employment opportunities in the region. The EDA grant will also support the building of a more robust high speed broadband infrastructure with alternative power sources. Given its relative isolation from major markets and employment hubs, this Mississippi Delta region town needs adequate Internet connectivity to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters. The increased access to broadband communication and back-up power sources will make both the public and business sectors more resilient and strengthen the speed of future recovery efforts.