Randall S. Murch, Ph.D.
Randall S. Murch, Ph.D. is Professor in Practice in the School of Public and International Affairs, an Adjunct Professor in Department of Plant Pathology and Physiology, and is on the Research and Development Team at Virginia Tech, National Capital Region. He joined the university in December, 2004. He main interests are areas in which science and technology, operations, law, policy and security converge. His funded research activities are focused on advancing forensic science, biosecurity and microbial forensics. He advises PhD students and teaches courses in several graduate programs. He is also currently Visiting Faculty, Institute for Investigative Genetics, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Ft. Worth, Texas. He was a Visiting Professor, King’s College London in the past.
Following completion of the PhD 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. Early on, he was assigned to the Indianapolis and Los Angeles Field Offices where he performed counterterrorism, counterintelligence and other investigations. During his career, he was assigned to the FBI Laboratory as a forensic biologist, research scientist, department head and deputy director at various times. While department head and deputy director, he was instrumental in leading the overhaul of the FBI Laboratory and navigating various investigations and inquiries of Laboratory science, operations, personnel and services. Interspersed with his Laboratory assignments were four assignments in the technical operations (engineering) program: as a program manager for complex operations planning, FBI Headquarters; chief of a technology development and deployment unit, Investigative Technology Division, Quantico, Virginia; technical squad supervisor, New York Field Office; and, deputy director, Investigative Technology Division (now Operational Technology Division; at the time 600 FBI personnel, 200 contractors, $650M budget). These two sets of assignments, which had increasing responsibility and authority, involved the development and application of forensic and engineering technologies in complex, involvement or oversight of expertise and science and technology applied to high-profile investigative and operational situations, management of associated personnel, organizations and their operations and budgets, as well as national and international outreach and liaison.
While in the FBI Laboratory, he created the FBI’s and US’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 domestic and international terrorism cases, and initiated a number of new and innovative programs for both the FBI Laboratory and technical investigative program. In 1996, Dr. Murch created the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit, the US’s original, and first-ever, program for the forensic investigation of WMD threats, events and hoaxes, which aid the foundation for the creation of new fields in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons forensics and programs in several U.S. Government departments and agencies. Since that time, he has published and presented extensively in the field of microbial forensics and has recently presented in several high-level international fora on this topic.
Throughout his FBI career, he also was involved with extensive liaison at the national and international levels in furthering science and technology for law enforcement, counterterrorism and national security purposes. Between his last two FBI assignments, he was detailed to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Department of Defense (DoD), where he was the director of the Advanced Systems and Concepts Office, where he led advanced studies on complex current and future challenges dealing with weapons of mass destruction. He retired from the FBI in November, 2002 after nearly 23 years of service, and as a member of the Senior Executive Service for the last seven years with that agency (final rank was SES-4).
From December 2002-December 2004, Dr. Murch was employed as a Research Staff Member, Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a leading Federally Funded Research and Development Center, where he led and participated in studies for the defense and national security communities. While there, he led the first-ever comprehensive baseline study of microbial forensics for the US national security community.
From February 2007 to January 2008 he was on loan from Virginia Tech to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Directorate of Science and Technology, Office of Research, as Senior Principal Counselor for Science and Technology. Since 2010, he has been on loan as a senior science advisor to the Department of Defense for the development and implementation of advanced forensic capabilities.
He has been member of or advised a number of study and standing committees of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Two of the NAS studies he has been part of have focused on strategic assessments of national forensic capabilities, one focused on emerging science and technology and global biosecurity, another for a science and technology roadmap for DHS and another focused on core capabilities of the Department of Defense Chemical and Biological Defense Program. He served for six years on the Board of Life Sciences, National Research Council, and is currently on the NRC Division of Earth and Life Studies Advisory Committee which assists the National Research Council with oversight of 13 of its boards and committees. He has just been asked to serve on a senior committee which has been formed to facilitate collaboration between the U. S. and Indian National Academies on counterterrorism science and technology.
Dr. Murch has also advised the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Science Board (DSB), the DTRA Threat Reduction Advisory Committee, and has served on several other U.S. Government advisory committees. Dr. Murch also served on the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) from December 2009 – May 2012. He is also a member of the Interagency Microbial Forensics Advisory Board, which is overseen by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President. He has been a member of special study committees for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.
Dr. Murch is also a member of the President’s Advisory Board of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, Tucson, Arizona, which is dedicated to supporting scientific research and improving science education at universities, colleges and high schools.
Murch received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington in 1974, his Master of Science degree in Botanical Sciences from the University of Hawai’i in 1976 and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Plant Pathology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1979. Thus far in his career, he has published over 40 scholarly papers, reports and chapters and made over ca. 150 invited presentations to a wide variety of audiences. He has also testified in U.S. courts of law as an expert witness on ca. 110 occasions, and testified before the U.S. Congress on several occasions.