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  11:53 a.m. June 22, 2015
UT offering country’s first graduate program in forensic odontology and human ID

forensic odontology
Dental identification is particularly valuable since teeth, unlike DNA evidence, are virtually indestructible. Image courtesy of Dr. Murray Marks, UTIA.

KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee is offering its first post-graduate degree program in forensic odontology in the United States. The program includes faculty who were involved in identifying victims at the World Trade Center attack on 9-11.

The program is being launched by UT’s Comparative and Experimental Medicine (CEM), a joint program between the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Graduate School of Medicine.

The master’s program addresses the need for additional professionals — including crime scene investigators, anthropologists, dentists, medicolegal death investigators, and detectives — trained to investigate crime scenes, provide positive identifications, and to process dental remains as evidence. This need is currently unmet in the forensic community.

Forensic odontology is the method of identifying victims through the unique characteristics of their dental and craniofacial anatomy. Dental identification is particularly valuable since teeth, unlike DNA evidence, are virtually indestructible. These methods aid in solving criminal cases involving bite marks, as well as mass disaster identifications such as those after Hurricane Katrina and the World Trade Center attack.

“We are fortunate to have two of the nation’s most credentialed specialists in forensic dental identification,” said Dr. Murray Marks, CEM faculty member and program director. “Drs. Mike Tabor and Richard Weems helped identify North and South Tower victims at Ground Zero from the 9-11 attack, and having these experts on board as university faculty is a natural fit for this mission. These faculty bring an expertise and hands-on experience of unmatched value to the master’s student, and, until now, an academic-based program like this one being offered by UT has not been available in the United States.”

Training for this intense, three-semester, 33 credit-hour master of science degree involves scene search, recovery, identification, and processing of fresh, mutilated, and decomposed remains exposed to many post mortem environments, from surface scattered bones and clandestine burials to aquatic and thermal settings.

Courses are offered fall 2015. To learn more about the program and admission requirements, visit:, email, or call 865-974-0227.

Other partners in the concentration include the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, the University of Tennessee Medical Center and Department of General Dentistry and the Law Enforcement Innovation Center in Oak Ridge.

One of 28 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine educates students in the art and science of veterinary medicine and related biomedical sciences, promotes scientific research and enhances human and animal well-being.

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine in Knoxville is part of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the statewide academic health system. The school is home to more than 400 full-time and volunteer teaching physicians, dentists and researchers and more than 200 resident physicians and dentists in 11 residency and 10 fellowship programs. As part of the statewide College of Medicine, medical student core third-year rotations and fourth-year electives are offered. The school, together with clinical partner University Health System Inc., form The University of Tennessee Medical Center, the only academic medical center in the area and whose mission is to serve through healing, education and discovery. For more information about the UT Graduate School of Medicine, visit

Published June 22, 2015

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