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.
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:
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.
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.