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Simulated bioterrorist attack provides hands-on learning opportunity

Liberty University students learn about bioterrorism on Saturday.

Liberty University partnered with the Virginia State Police to host a simulated bioterrorism attack at the Vines Center on Saturday, March 28.

Liberty University students learned about bioterrorism on Saturday morning.Liberty University’s Department of Biology and Chemistry and the Helms School of Government partnered with the Virginia State Police to host a simulated bioterrorism attack at the Vines Center on Saturday, March 28.

The event was led by alumnus Kevin Richards (’97), special agent for the Virginia State Police Counter Terrorism & Criminal Interdiction Unit. He worked with about 20 students from Liberty's Criminal Justice and Forensic Science programs. 

Richards began by organizing students into teams and instructing them on how to set up meters that are used by his department to detect biological and chemical agents. After a detailed training session, students filed into the Vines Center, where foggers were set up to simulate the release of organisms. The students were told to pretend that someone had released the biological agent during an event at the Vines Center. They then had to use the meters to decide whether or not the microorganisms were deadly.

Dr. J. Thomas McClintock, professor and director of Forensic Science and one of the world's leading DNA experts, said the event was a great opportunity for students to learn how to use the latest equipment that they will work with once they enter the job market. Students who graduate from the program obtain careers in the field of criminal investigation, forensic science, and DNA analysis.

“We have really tried to make sure the students in our programs are prepared to enter the job market with the best possible skill set. The more exposure they see while they are in school, the more job opportunities they will have when they graduate,” he said.

Richards also addressed forensic science, criminal justice, and government students on Thursday night, where he explained in detail the hazardous tasks his unit does on a daily basis, from security for state and federal officials to gang and drug enforcement.

“I consider providing this hands-on experience to students to be a privilege,” Richards said. “Providing them with this simulation has given them real-life experience that they can use in class and in future career endeavors.”