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Source: Vincent J. Desiderio, Jr., MS, Criminalistics Section Chair
Written by Christopher R. Bommarito, MS, Criminalistics Section Fellow
The field of forensic science has lost one of its most engaging and influential members, Dr. Jay A. Siegel, who died at home in his sleep on September 25, 2017, in Mt. Arlington, NJ, due to heart failure at the age of 71.
Dr. Siegel earned a PhD in Chemistry from George Washington University in 1975. After working for several years as a forensic chemist with the Virginia Bureau of Forensic Sciences, Dr. Siegel spent more than 35 years as a forensic science educator and researcher at Metropolitan State College in Denver, CO, Michigan State University (Professor Emeritus) in East Lansing, MI, and Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, IN, where he also served as a department chair. He also served as a visiting professor at universities in Australia and China. Through his role as a forensic science educator, he mentored hundreds of practicing forensic scientists, many of whom are leaders in the field today.
Dr. Siegel was a leading national expert and author in the field of forensic science and was a highly sought-after consultant, participating in several high-profile cases throughout the country. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee that authored Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, an objective external review of forensic science that continues to shape reforms in the field. He authored numerous publications in forensic science journals and several textbooks in the field and served as editor of the Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences. He was a member of the Journal of Forensic Sciences Editorial Board for 25 years (1983-2008) and served as a commissioner on the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) from 2003 through 2008.
For his work as both a forensic scientist and educator, Dr Siegel was honored with several prestigious awards in the field. In 2005, he was named the Paul L. Kirk Award Winner, the highest honor given by the Criminalistics Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). In 2009, he was honored as a Distinguished Fellow by the AAFS and was also presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award from George Washington University. In 2012, he was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the Midwest Association of Forensic Scientists.
For all his awards and accomplishments in the field, Dr. Siegel was most proud of the students he had taught and mentored. He was an excellent professor who did his best to give his students opportunities and was proud of the accomplishments of his former students who seized those opportunities. No visit to his laboratory was ever complete without him speaking glowingly of his graduates and showing off his bulletin board full of business cards of former students practicing in the field. Dr. Siegel will be sorely missed by those whose lives he touched.
Dr. Siegel is survived by his wife, Margaret Wilke of Mt. Arlington, NJ; his daughter, Samantha Linehan, her husband, Nick, of Hackettstown, NJ, and son, Paul Siegel, of Brooklyn, NY; and his two grandsons, Tommy and Ben Linehan, of Hackettstown, NJ. He is also survived by two sisters, Judy Siegel of Gaithersburg, MD, and Pam Douglas and her husband, Ed, of Las Vegas, NV.
Christopher Bommarito, author of this article, was a student of and close friend to Dr. Siegel.