Forensic Nexus Q/A Session with a Forensic Chemistry expert and professor!


Forensic Nexus would like to introduce you to Dr. John G. Rankin, a Forensic Chemistry professor at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Dr. Rankin kindly agreed to being interviewed by Forensic Nexus to share his career path. We asked him the following questions:

What is your profession and what is your typical day like?

I teach forensic chemistry courses at Marshall University (MS program, FEPAC accredited) and do research in the areas of fire debris, explosives and siezed drug analysis. Specifically we are developing techniques for individualization of ignitable liquid residues from fire debris, HPLC of explosives residues from pipe bombs and development of field tests for marijuana mimics.

I hold certificates in drug analysis and fire debris analysis from the American Board of Criminalists and have been court qualified in paint chemistry.

During the academic year, my day is primarily teaching classes and advising students. During the summers, I direct research for 2-6 grad students in my lab.


What inspired you to pursue this career?

I am an analytical chemist by training and began teaching in the Chemistry department at Marshall in 1993. That following year the forensic program was being developed primarily to teach DNA techniques but I was enlisted as a faculty advisor to the program as well as giving lectures. As the program grew, I joined the program full time in 2000 developing the forensic chemistry emphasis.

On a personal note, my first wife was murdered in 1979 by a serial killer who has never been caught. This was before DNA was routine and there were no fingerprints at the scene from the perpetrator. This is one of the underlying reasons for my interest in forensic science, especially developing new methods of analysis.


What is your academic background?

BS Biology, Southern Methodist University

PhD Chemical Oceanography, Texas A&M

PhD Analytical Chemistry, Univ. of Houston


What do you enjoy most about your job?

Training students to become forensic scientists in crime labs at all levels (federal, state, local and private)


What suggestions do you have for students that are interested in pursuing a career in your profession?

Obtain a BS in chemistry or biology then take an MS in forensic science at an FEPAC accredited school. An internship in a crime lab will be helpful in learning what the day to day workload is. Good grades and a clean record including no DUIs.

Have we covered all bases? Any further questions come to mind while reading Dr. Rankin’s story? Please feel free to submit questions by commenting on this post and we will direct them to him and post the responses.

Forensic Nexus would like to thank Dr. Rankin for his participation. He has also agreed to offer mentorship to individuals seeking career advisement.

Contact us at for more information about mentorship.

Every Monday we will be spotlighting forensic professionals. To contribute your story, please visit this link.

Till next week!

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