Jun 01 2016

Under the Microscope – Chuck Heurich


The ISHI27 agenda is already filling up with some great talks from amazing speakers! While the forensic community is a tight-knit group, we can always get a little closer, right? With that in mind, we asked our speakers some questions to get to know them a little better outside of their work. We’ve been posting their responses in a feature we like to call Under the Microscope.




Today, we’re chatting with Chuck Heurich, who will be chairing the NIJ’s FY 2016 DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction Program: Changes and Updates workshop on Sunday, September 25th.

Chuck Heurich received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and his Masters of Forensic Science from the George Washington University.  He began his career in forensics by spending 3 years as a crime scene technician in Baltimore City where he processed over 2000 crime scenes.  He then spent almost 12 years with the Montgomery County Crime Lab as a Forensic Scientist in the Forensic Biology Unit performing DNA analysis and a Forensic Specialist 2 in the Forensic Services Section processing crime scenes, chemically enhancing latent fingerprints, and enhancing digital images.  He is currently a Program Manager with the National Institute of Justice where he manages the DNA Backlog Reduction, Solving Cold Cases with DNA, Using DNA Technology to Identify the Missing, and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) programs for which he was awarded the 2011 Samuel Hayman Service to America Medal in Justice and Law Enforcement.  He is also very active in the cold case and missing persons communities.


How did you come to work in the field of forensics/DNA?

I was originally very intrigued by the show Quincy M.E. and the fact that science could help solve crimes. I then began reading true crime books like Helter Skelter and case references as well. That all led to a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Forensics, jobs as a Crime Scene Technician, and then a DNA Analyst before becoming a Physical Scientist/Program Manager at NIJ.  Forensic Biology/Serology/and DNA was always my specific area of interest.


What is your favorite thing about your job? Why?

My favorite thing is my ability to interact with so many scientists in the field and to see the impact our grant funding has on solving cases.


What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?

Making sure that the funding we give out is spent in an allowable manner and that it is making a significant impact.


What accomplishment are you most proud of relating to forensics/DNA?

The creation and implementation of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or, NamUs and the fact that our team won the 2011 Service to America Medal in Law Enforcement.


If you’ve attended ISHI before, what keeps you coming back? If you’ve never attended before, what are you most looking forward to at ISHI27?

The quality of the presentations and the opportunity to interact with DNA professionals from all over the world in person.    


When you were little, what career did you think you’d have as an adult?

I really wanted to be a rock star or a bachelor.


Where do you see the future of forensic science headed?

In amazing directions of speed, sensitivity, and precision but, all at a cautious pace.


What do you hope the audience learns/takes away from your talk?

I hope our presentation educates the audience not only about NIJ DNA grants but also why we make the changes we do and how we may come to those decisions.


What person would you say has had the biggest influence in your career?

When I was in high school I took a weekend forensics course at Loyola College in Baltimore. The instructor was Mark Profili from the Baltimore City Crime Lab.  He was my biggest influence in actually getting into forensics. He is now the Director of the Forensic Program at Towson University and one of my best friends.


If you could time-travel, what year would you go to and why?

Wow, there are so many but, as a drummer and huge fan of all music, I think I’d go back to 1969 and see what Woodstock was like. 1776 and the signing of the Declaration of Independence would be a pretty close second.


Star Wars or Star Trek?

How about Spaceballs?