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Visiting staff

Randall S Murch

Visiting professor

Virginia Tech
900 North Glebe Road
VA 22203
Phone: 1 571 858 3080
Randall S. Murch, Ph.D. is the Associate Director, Research Program Development, National Capital Region, Virginia Tech. He also holds Adjunct Professorships in the School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Plant Pathology. Until January 2008 he was on loan to the Department of Homeland Security, Directorate of Science and Technology, Office of Research, as Senior Principal Counselor for Science and Technology, with wide ranging duties and responsibilities.

Areas of expertise

  • Intelligence
  • Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons forensics
  • Biosecurity


Following graduate school and brief service in the U.S. Army Reserve, Dr. Murch’s first career was with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), where he was a Special Agent. 
During his career, he was assigned to the FBI Laboratory as a forensic biologist, research scientist, department head and deputy director at various times. Interspersed with his Laboratory assignments were four assignments in the Bureau’s technical investigative program:
  • as a program manager for complex operations planning, Intelligence Division;
  • unit chief for a technology development and deployment group Technical Services Division;
  • squad supervisor, New York Field Office; and
  • deputy director, Investigative Technology Division.
Between his last two FBI assignments, he was detailed to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Department of Defense, where he was the director of the Advanced Systems and Concepts Office.
While in the FBI he created the FBI’s WMD forensic investigative program, served as the FBI’s science advisor to the 1996 Olympic Games, led forensic investigative aspects of a number of major terrorism cases.

In 1996, Dr. Murch created the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit, the nation’s focal point for the forensic investigation of WMD threats, events and hoaxes; this laid the foundation for the creation of new fields in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons forensics.

Current research & training development

Dr. Murch is the Principal Investigator for three current research or training development awards:
  • "Bio Attribution at the Science/Policy Interface” for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).
  • “Establishing the Quantitative Basis for Sufficiency: Thresholds and Metrics for Friction Ridge Pattern Detail and the Foundation for a Standard”, funded by the National Institute of Justice, Department of Justice.
  • “Biometric Performance and Training Initiative”, for the Biometric Support Center, operated by BAE Systems for the Department of Homeland Security US-VISIT Program.
  • Additionally, Virginia Tech through Dr. Murch as Principal Investigator has one an award for the “Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center Support Contract” through IEM, Inc. of Baton Rouge, LA. This win allows the IEM team, of which Virginia Tech is a subcontractor, to compete for task orders for ECBC.

Several other proposals are awaiting funding decisions or under development.

Teaching & advising

  • Dr. Murch taught the second half of Homeland Security: Response and Recovery, during Fall 2009 for the Virginia Tech, National Capital Region’s Center for Public Administration and Policy (CPAP) and the Center for Technology, Security and Policy (CTSP).
  • Dr. Murch is planning to teach Introduction to Science and Technology Policy (cohort course as part of the Master of Science in Industrial Systems Engineering program at a US Government agency) during Fall 2010.
  • Dr. Murch has been asked to teach an advanced topics course on “threats to homeland security” as part of the CTSP/CPAP homeland security certificate program during Spring 2011.
  • Dr. Murch successfully co-advised a student who completed his PhD degree during Spring 2010; he is currently co-advising three other PhD students in three different programs and recruiting two others into CPAP.


Over the past year Dr. Murch gave the following formal presentations:
  • Murch, R. S. 2009. Science for Law Enforcement and Intelligence Attribution. Invited Presentation at 2009 Monterey Proliferation Seminar, Proliferation Complexity: The Intersection of Policy, Operations, Media,
  • Intelligence and Science. Organizer: Center for Contemporary Conflict, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA. July 7 – 9, 2009
  • Murch, R. S. 2009. Integrating Investigation, Intelligence, Science, Law, Operations and Policy for Effective WMD Attribution. Invited Presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Program on Nuclear Issues (PONI), San Diego, CA, August 6 – 7, 2009
  • Murch, R. S. 2009. Looking Beyond the NAS Report: Improving the Quality, Reliability and Credibility of the Science. Invited Presentation at Actual Innocence: Establishing Innocence or Guilt, Forensic Science—Friend or Foe to the Criminal Justice System. Organized by the Center for American and International Law, Plano TX, August 17-18, 2009
  • Murch, R. S. 2009. Sensors and Sensor Networks: How “Operators” See and Use Them, Presentation to the Advisory Committee, Division of Earth and Life Sciences, National Academies and National Research Council, October 2, 2009
  • Murch, R. S. 2009. Forensic Science and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Invited presentation at the University of Pittsburgh Center for National Preparedness, November 5, 2009
  • Murch, R. S., R. McCreight and J. L. Smith. 2009. Microbial Forensics: Where We Are and Where We Need To Be. Co-panelists, Monthly Biosecurity Discussion Group, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. November 9, 2009
  • Murch, R. S. 2009. Integrating Investigation, Intelligence, Science, Law, Operations and Policy for Effective WMD Attribution. Invited Presentation at the Program on Nuclear Issues (PONI) Capstone Conference, Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Omaha NE, December 15, 2009
  • Murch, R. S. 2010. Microbial Forensics: Sampling But From a Broader Context. Invited Presentation at a Joint US DoD DTRA-UK MOD Meeting, March 8 – 9, 2010
  • Murch, R. S. 2010. Nuclear and Bio Forensics: Focus on FBI and DHS. Invited Presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Program on Nuclear Issues, Nuclear Scholars Program, March 26, 2010


  • Dr. Murch began membership on the National Academy of Sciences’ Division of Earth and Life Studies (DELS) Advisory Committee in January 2010. This committee works with the senior leadership of the division and Academies to oversee the activities of 13 boards. In that role, I have specifically asked to work with the Disaster Roundtable, one of those 13 entities within DELS, which is chaired by Dr. Jack Harrald of Center for Technology, Security and Policy (CTSP).
  • In December 2009, Dr. Murch began membership on the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), the U.S. Government’s premier external advisory board in this area which is managed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Dr. Murch continues to serve on a DOD agency’s senior science advisory committee which meets three times per year at various locations in the U.S.
  • Dr. Murch continues to serve on the President’s Advisory Board of the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement (Tucson AZ).
  • During from summer 2009 through early winter 2010, Dr. Murch assisted the National Geographic Explorer television program in a pro bono capacity with a documentary they were preparing on biological weapons and bioterrorism. I also provided a videotaped interview for this program. This show is expected to air in the fall of this year.
  • Dr. Murch was a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ committee which performed a review on the nation’s nuclear forensics program. This study was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. The final report was completed two months ago and will be published as “Nuclear Forensics: A Capability at Risk”. Over the past few months, it has been briefed at senior levels in appropriate departments in the Executive Branch and to Congressional committees with very positive reviews.
  • On June 15, 2010, Dr. Murch provided invited testimony before the Congress; specifically the House Homeland Security Committee, Sub-Committee on Emerging Threats on provisions in a bill now being considered in response to the recent report of the WMD Commission (co-chaired by former US Senators Graham and Talent). Dr. Murch’s testimony and responses to questions was well received and have been influential with the Sub-Committee in changing and refining the bill.
  • Over the past year Dr. Murch talked informally with several authors and reporters from various media outlets regarding forensic science and bioterrorism.

Recent publications

Over the past year, Dr. Murch has submitted the following for publication:
  • Murch, R. S. 2009. How Best Can the U.S. Protect Itself Against Agroterrorism? Invited Essay for Controversies in Science and Technology, University of Wisconsin Press
  • Murch, R. S. 2009. “Amerithrax”: The Investigation of Bioterrorism Using Anthrax in Mailed Envelopes, 2001 – 2008. In: Encyclopedia of
  • Bioterrorism Defense, 2nd Edition, John Wiley and Sons (expected publication, late 2010)
  • Murch, R. S. and E. L. Bahr. 2010. Validation of Microbial Forensics in the Scientific, Legal and Policy Contexts. Invited chapter for Microbial Forensics, 2nd Edition, Elsevier, (to be published late 2010)
  • Leighton, T. and R. Murch. 2010. Introduction: Role of Repositories and Systematics in Microbial Forensics. Invited chapter for Microbial Forensics, 2nd Edition, Elsevier, (to be published in Autumn 2010)
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