Veteran FBI scientist to lead Western’s forensic science program

Longtime FBI special agent Mark R. Wilson, one of the nation’s foremost experts in the use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations, has joined Western Carolina University to lead its academic program in forensic science.

Mark R. Wilson

Mark R. Wilson

Wilson (pictured), who worked with the FBI for 23 years before retiring in June, developed and successfully implemented the use of human mitochondrial DNA typing on evidence obtained from criminal casework, especially involving human bones and hair. He was the first person to testify to results of this type of DNA analysis in the United States and Canada.

“We are privileged that someone with the kind of credentials Mark Wilson (pictured at right) brings will be leading our efforts to enhance and expand our program in forensic science,” Wendy Ford, dean of the WCU College of Arts and Sciences, said in announcing the appointment, effective Jan. 1. “Mark is a pioneer in DNA and trace evidence analysis, and his extensive experience as a practitioner of forensic science will provide invaluable insight to our students.”

Mark WilsonWilson most recently helped establish and manage the new chemical biological sciences unit of the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va. This unit included a new research effort dedicated to integrating traditional forensic examinations with the emerging threats of biological, chemical and radiological agents. Wilson started the unit’s research efforts into the forensic characterization of microbial evidence.

He has served as chair of the Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics, an association of scientists devoted to expanding forensic capabilities targeting biological threat agents. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Azusa Pacific College, master’s degree in biology from California State University and doctorate in biosciences from George Mason University.

“There is genuine interest at Western in extending the opportunities for student development and continued professional development in forensic science,” Wilson said. “The technical capabilities of forensic science are following significant advances in the basic sciences. Particularly strong areas for rapid growth are DNA analysis, genomics, high-resolution image processing, and elemental and isotopic chemical analysis. I’m looking forward to working with students and faculty in these and other related areas.”

Western’s forensic science program includes courses in anthropology, applied criminology, biology, chemistry, clinical laboratory science, physics and psychology. It is in addition to the university’s forensic anthropology program.

For more information, call (828) 227-7646.