Nearly 300 people gathered Wednesday morning to watch the beginning of what Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt called a “new era of forensic science in Kansas.”
Schmidt, along with the Governor of Kansas, Mayor of Topeka, Washburn President Jerry Farley and Kansas Bureau of Investigation director Kirk Thompson, praised the partnership that brought KBI and Washburn to this day. And they spoke in detail about how the construction of the 100,000 square foot state of the art facility will improve evidence processing times and, thereby, the Kansas justice system.
“This is the most unique and positive partnership I’ve been a part of,” Thompson said. When it opens in 18 months, Thompson, a Washburn graduate, said the new facility will make Kansas safer by improving service and response time of KBI to law enforcement agencies that rely on it.
For KBI, the new facility means being able to recruit top talent in the specialized field of forensics. The current laboratory is in the basement of a former school on Taylor Street that was built in 1928. The new facility is designed to exceed industry standards on the amount of square footage per scientist and will include equipment upgrades as well.
For Washburn, having the facility on campus will mean academic partnerships unmatched anywhere else in the country. Because KBI scientists will be able to serve as adjunct faculty it will mean the ability to offer specialized training in programs not currently offered, such as digital forensics and forensic accounting in the future. It also will allow for broader and deeper study in programs that are offered now, including criminal justice and forensic chemical science. Opportunities for advanced students to intern with KBI also are being developed.
Mary Ralston, a junior studying forensic chemical science, shared her excitement on Twitter during the groundbreaking.
“As a future Forensic Chemist, this is one of the best and most exciting things happening at Washburn,” she said.
There are about 30 students currently majoring in forensic chemical science now. With KBI’s facility coming on board that number could grow rapidly.
Farley told those gathered that having KBI’s laboratory on campus will “bring prestige to our campus” and elevate the University’s standing among young people who know they want to study in the forensics field. “This is going to be great for our campus.”
The KBI laboratory is one of several projects underway at Washburn.