Free lecture Sept. 12: 'Investigating Clandestine Drug Laboratories'

September 07, 2011

The public is invited to a free lecture, "Investigating Clandestine Drug Laboratories," on Sept. 12, by James DeFrancesco, a senior forensic chemist with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This event is the first of a series of four presentations on forensic science and its use as a law-enforcement tool in Penn State's 2011 Forensic Science Lecture Series. All lectures will be held on Mondays from 12:20 to 1:10 p.m. in 111 Wartik Laboratory on the Penn State University Park campus.

DeFrancesco will discuss his involvement in the international investigation of clandestinely-produced fentanyl, its use as a replacement for heroin, and the subsequent overdose deaths of drug users nationwide. DeFrancesco's diverse background in chemistry ranges from work in private industry for Mobil Oil and Fujisawa Pharmaceuticals to teaching at DePaul and Northwestern Universities. His dissertation research was in organic photochemistry and measuring intramolucular energy transfer.

His work has been recognized with numerous awards and commendations from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice's U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Chicago Police Department. In his tenure with the Drug Enforcement Administration, he has specialized in clandestine drug-lab raids, and he is considered a national expert in the chemical analysis and chemical behavior of gamma-hydroxybutyrate, gamma-butyrolactone, and 1,4-butanediol. His research has resulted in a U.S. patent. Additionally, he has provided technical assistance to law enforcement in major investigations involving these drugs, and he has provided key court testimony in numerous conspiracy trials resulting in the establishment of legal precedence in the emerging area of drug-analogue prosecutions.

DeFrancesco earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry at Elmhurst College in 1983 and a doctoral degree in physical-organic chemistry at Michigan State University in 1992. He is a member of the American Chemical Society and the Clandetine Laoratory Investigating Chemists Association.

For a complete listing of lectures in this series, go to

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


  • James DeFrancesco

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated January 09, 2015