Final lecture in Penn State's 2011 Forensic Science Lecture Series

October 20, 2011

A free public lecture, "FBI Scientist's View on the Development of Forensic Science," will be given on Oct. 24 by Melissa Anne Smrz, retired FBI special agent and former deputy assistant director of the FBI Laboratory. This event is the final of four presentations on forensic science and its use as a law-enforcement tool in Penn State's 2011 Forensic Science Lecture Series. The lecture will be held from 12:20 to 1:10 p.m. in 111 Wartik Laboratory on the Penn State University Park campus.

Smrz will describe the changes in forensic science that she experienced in her 20-year journey from a DNA analyst to a senior manager in the FBI. Smrz received a bachelor's degree in zoology in 1980, and a medical technology certificate in 1981 from the University of Iowa. She received a master's degree in criminalistics from the University of Illinois in 1985. She then worked for three years as a forensic scientist with the former Virginia Bureau of Forensic Science, specializing in microscopic hair analysis and forensic serology -- the detection, classification and study of various bodily fluids and their relationship to a crime scene.

In 1989, Smrz joined the FBI, became a special agent, and was assigned to the Indianapolis division, where she investigated white-collar crime. In 1992, she was assigned to the DNA Analysis Unit I of the FBI Laboratory, where she was a forensic-serology and nuclear-DNA examiner. For the next eight years, she examined evidence for the presence of human biological fluids and DNA in forensic cases.

In 2000, Smrz was selected as chief of the DNA Analysis Unit II of the FBI Laboratory, which conducts mitochondrial-DNA forensic examinations on hairs, bones, teeth, and blood or saliva samples. In 2004, she was selected as chief of the Forensic Analysis Section of the FBI Laboratory, where she supervised personnel from the Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records, Firearms and Toolmarks, Latent Fingerprint, and Questioned Documents units.

In 2006, Smrz was selected as deputy assistant director of the Forensic Analysis Branch in the FBI Laboratory, where she was in charge of all forensic casework, quality assurance, evidence control, and training. She later became the sole deputy assistant director of the FBI Laboratory, overseeing all forensic casework, traditional crime-scene and weapons-of-mass-destruction scene response, forensic intelligence, research, and administrative/fiscal activities.

Smrz is a member and former ex-officio board member of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors. She also holds membership in  the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the International Association for Identification, and she is commissioner of the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission. Smrz's papers have been published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences and the Journal of Forensic Identification.

The Penn State 2011 Forensic Science Lecture Series is sponsored by the Penn State Eberly College of Science. For more information, contact the Forensic Science Program at 814-863-6758 or email


Last Updated January 10, 2015