National security, bombings, domestic violence, among topics of URI’s Spring Forensic Seminar Partnership Series

KINGSTON, R.I. —Feb. 1, 2024 — The University of Rhode Island’s Forensic Science Partnership lecture series is back for the spring semester.

All lectures are held on Fridays at 3:30 p.m. in the Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences. For 25 years, the seminar has brought local, regional, national and international authorities to talk about everything from the criminal world of the late Whitey Bulger to Sept 11, 2001. The seminars feature experts on crime, evidence-gathering, crime prevention and investigations that rely on scientific processes.

During its run, the series has hosted guest speakers such as Henry Lee, the renowned forensic scientist who worked on the O.J. Simpson criminal case, and the late URI faculty member, Robert Leuci, who exposed corruption in the New York City Police Department. Visiting speakers have discussed many topics in forensic science that deal with everything from death investigations to fingerprinting DNA analysis to Sherlock Holmes and terrorism.

Dennis Hilliard, director of the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory at URI, coordinates the free public lecture series with Professor of Chemistry Jimmie Oxley, an expert on explosives and energetic materials.

This spring’s speakers and topics are:

Feb. 2 — “Seeing the invisible: flow visualization and scientific imaging to improve CBRNE safety, security, defense, and forensics,” fluid dynamics expert Matt Staymates of the National Institute of Standards & Technology. The office promotes innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive capabilities, to improve economic security and improve people’s lives.

Feb. 9 — “Death as our mentor: lessons learned from 9/11,” Mark Desire, assistant director of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, will educate the audience about lessons learned from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Feb. 16 — “Death investigations #101,” Bill Powers, former member of the Massachusetts State Police, will discuss several investigations. Powers is also an author who just recently published When the Smoke Cleared, a murder mystery set in Malden.

Feb. 23 — “A case study involving the Investigation of an Improvised Explosive Device in the City of Boston,” John E. Drugan, forensic chemist at the Boston Fire Department Chemistry Laboratory.

March 1 — “Federal prosecution,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Daly, U.S. Attorney’s Office — District of Rhode Island, will discuss federal prosecutions.

March 8 — “Bombings: from tactics to trials,” FBI Chief Explosive Scientist Kirk Yeager will discuss bombings. Yeager was the lead explosive scientist for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the 2010 Times Square bombing in New York, and the 2009 case of the underwear bomber arrested in Detroit.

March 22 — “An expansive career in national security,” Managing Director Colin O’Hara, a federal government consultant, will discuss his career path in national security.

March 29 — “Why Customs & Border Patrol needs scientists,” Bret Reiswig, of U.S. Customs & Border Control. The office protects the country’s borders, and helps keep the nation’s economy strong.

April 5 — “Pathway to violence, a public health approach to prevention,” Regional Prevention Coordinator Robert Mahoney, of the Department of Homeland Security.

April 12 — “Intimate partner violence: an overview,” Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Leila Dutton, University of New Haven. Dutton is an expert in testing different theories that explain why particular people engage in stalking and unwanted pursuit.

April 19 — “Managing forensic error: lessons from wrongful convictions,” Senior Director John Morgan, of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Morgan is internationally recognized for his forensics work, body armor, special operations technology, and predictive policing.

April 26 — “Overview of forensic odontology,” General Dental Practitioner Ira Titunik, of the Midtown Dental Group, in New York City. Titunik is a lecturer and consultant for various law and enforcement agencies and organizations in the fields of dentistry and odontology.

URI’s Forensic Science Seminar Series is offered for credit for students and it’s also open to the public at no cost. Those who can’t attend the seminars in-person can access them live online, or at a later date by searching the particular topic and clicking the topic link.

To learn more about the URI Forensic Science Seminar Series and to be added to the series’ email list, contact Dennis Hilliard, M.S. ‘80, Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory, at, or call 401-874-5056.

Benjamin Smith, a senior sports media and public relations major at the University of Rhode Island and an intern in the Department of Communications and Marketing, wrote this press release.