Institute for Forensic Sciences


The Edinboro Institute for Forensic Sciences coordinates the forensic activities and related academic programs from a broad range of disciplines. This interdisciplinary Institute was formed in 2015 to provide excellence in undergraduate education and training in the forensic sciences by drawing on faculty from diverse academic disciplines, including anthropology, art, psychology, and biology.

Adding Value Through Education and Research

The Institute brings together a number of PennWest Edinboro's educational and research facilities, including the Forensic Sciences and Crime Scene Investigation labs, the Anthropological Research Center and Archeology Lab, the Outdoor Research Center, and the Forensic Art and Digital Imaging Lab. By promoting faculty and student research and providing opportunities for students to engage in real-world forensic projects, the Institute is able to enhance the educational experience for students interested in a multitude of forensic disciplines.

PennWest Edinboro degree programs associated with the Institute for Forensic Sciences include:

Associated Programs

PennWest Edinboro programs associated with the Institute for Forensic Sciences include:
Bachelor of Science (BS) with a concentration in Forensic Sciences
Bachelor of Science (BS) with a concentration in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination
Associate of Arts (AA)
Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Mission and Goals


The fellows and associates of the Institute for Forensic Sciences are committed to providing high-quality instruction, research opportunities, and professional collaboration with the academic, scientific and medico-legal communities.


  1. To provide an outstanding undergraduate educational experience through cross-disciplinary research and student engagement in the forensics sciences. These opportunities will allow students to interact with forensic professionals, experience the range of forensic activities, and fine-tune their interests to provide depth and focus to their professional preparation.
  2. To support and promote collaborative faculty research and the presentation of forensic work. By providing opportunities to pool expertise across a broad range of disciplines, the community of forensic scholars and practitioners at PennWest Edinboro is further strengthened and enhanced.
  3. To integrate areas of knowledge within the forensic sciences so that faculty and students interact with professionals across the forensic spectrum and apply their skills to real-world experiences.
  4. To develop professional training opportunities and serve as a resource in forensics for the region that elevates awareness and expertise throughout academic and professional venues.

Fellows of the Edinboro Institute for Forensic Sciences

Lenore Barbian, PhD is a forensic anthropologist in the Department of Criminal Justice, Anthropology, and Forensic Studies.  She earned her BA in anthropology at Northwestern University and her MA and PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Her research interests include forensic anthropology, paleopathology, mortuary studies, museum curation, and repatriation.  Dr. Barbian has provided forensic consultation for the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the Virginia State Medical Examiner, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland, and the National Disaster Medical System’s Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) Region III.  She was deployed to Somerset, Pa. to assist with the identification of the victims of United Airlines Flight 93 in September 2001, and she has helped train Thai pathologists to identify the victims of the July 2004 tsunami from skeletal remains.  Dr. Barbian is the 2010 winner of the Ellis R. Kerley award for research excellence in forensic anthropology and received the 2013 Best Article award from the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences (ALHHS). 

Prior to joining the Edinboro faculty in 2006, Dr. Barbian served as curator of the Anatomical Collections at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC and as physical anthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, New York.  She has presented papers at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the American Association of Physical Anthropology, the American Anthropological Association, and others.  She has published on bone healing rates, interpretation of human skeletal material from archaeological contexts, and on museum displays of human anatomy.  She has served as a peer reviewer for the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, the International Journal of Paleopathology, and others. She is a frequent invited speaker and has given presentations on forensic anthropology at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the General Counsel, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the National Library of Medicine. 

Michelle Vitali, MFA, is a tenured professor in the Department of Art where she teaches human anatomy, scientific illustration, painting and drawing. She received her undergraduate education at the University of the Arts and Tyler School of Art (Rome) with a major in painting. She received a Master of Fine Arts from the New York Academy of Art, studying both painting and sculpture. Before coming to PennWest Edinboro, she served on the faculties of Pratt Institute, Parson’s School of Design and the New York Academy of Art.

In the last several years, Michelle’s knowledge of human anatomy and interest in law enforcement led her into the forensic arts. She served as the court artist on the Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong legal trial (a locally famous trial known as the “Pizza Bomber” case.) She has researched ways to increase the efficacy of 3D facial reconstructions and presented at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences international conference in 2014. She is currently working on a cold case in Barcelona, Spain, and a medieval historical case, also in Spain. She has worked with the National Museum of Health and Medicine to scan and reconstruct the face of a Civil War soldier killed at the Battle of Wilderness. Michelle is currently organizing a large reconstruction project with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to facilitate reconstructions of many unidentified individuals at once, with the help of professional forensic artists across the nation. Most recently, Michelle has worked with law enforcement to create 2D and 3D facial reconstructions of an embalmed head that was found in Beaver County, Pa. and the skull recovered at Frontier Park in Erie, Pa.  Her reconstructions have been distributed to news organizations to provide the public with an image that may help identify the deceased individual.

Contact Us

Lenore Barbian, PhD
141 Hendricks Hall

Michelle Vitali, MFA
202 Hamilton Hall