Sparty Statue

Faculty Bios

David R. Foran, Ph.D.
Director and Professor
Forensic Biology

David Foran is the director of the Forensic Science Program at Michigan State University, housed within the School of Criminal Justice, and with ties to departments throughout the University. He obtained his PhD in molecular genetics from the University of Michigan, and was a post-doctoral fellow at McGill University in Montreal. He became a research associate at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and then an assistant professor in the Forensic Science Department at the George Washington University in Washington DC, where he developed the forensic biology laboratory.

Dr. Foran founded the Forensic Biology Laboratory and graduate track at MSU in 2002, and became Program director in 2004. Dr. Foran’s area of expertise is forensic biology, with an accent on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analysis of both humans and domestic and wildlife species. He and his graduate students aid a variety of local, state, and federal agencies with specialized casework, are advisors to the Michigan Innocence Project, and conduct research on historical cases of broad interest.

He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, is on the Editorial Board of The Journal of Forensic Sciences, and is court qualified as an expert on both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA profiling.


Todd W. Fenton, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Forensic Anthropology

Todd Fenton is an Associate Professor of Anthropology specializing in forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology. His interests in forensic anthropology include the analysis of skeletal trauma as well as techniques in human identification. His current research is funded by the National Institute of Justice and is titled “A Forensic Pathology Tool to Predict Pediatric Skull Fracture Patterns”. He is a Co-PI on this project with Roger Haut, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering, and Walt Smith, Department of Radiology, College of Medicine.

In terms of bioarchaeology, Dr. Fenton has three ongoing, long-term collaborative projects in Albania, including the prehistoric burial mound at Kamenica, the medieval cemetery at Rembec, and the Roman city of Butrint.

Dr. Fenton is also a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a member of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.


Joseph Hefner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Forensic Anthropology

Joseph Hefner is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology specializing in forensic anthropology and quantitative methods. His interests in forensic anthropology include the estimation of ancestry using morphoscopic (cranial nonmetric) traits and cranial and postcranial metrics.

The focus of Dr. Hefner’s research is the standardization and quantification of morphoscopic traits with robust and appropriate classification statistics, including data mining techniques and machine learning methods. One aspect of this type of research is the seemingly endless need for more data. To that end, Dr. Hefner is currently establishing the Forensic Morphoscopic Databank at Michigan State University, a repository similar in scope and function to the Forensic Databank used to house cranial and postcranial metric data.

Dr. Hefner’s professional activities center on forensic anthropological method and theory and statistical approaches to biological anthropology, including biodistance analysis, categorical data analysis, geometric morphometric methods, data excavation, and parametric/nonparametric classification statistics.

Dr. Hefner is a board certified forensic anthropologist (D-ABFA) and also a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Register of Professional Archaeologists, American Association of Anatomists, Sigma Xi, and he is an Assessor for the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, Laboratory Accreditation Board.

Ruth W. Smith, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Forensic Chemistry
After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in the Analytical Chemical Sciences Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, NM), Ruth Waddell Smith moved to Michigan State University where she is currently an associate professor of Forensic Chemistry in the Forensic Science Program. Her current research interests include the application of multivariate statistical procedures for the association and discrimination of various types of forensic evidence, including fire debris, controlled substances, and questioned documents.