Desmond Bostick/Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences
Warren Samms ’07/09, who was profiled earlier this year in Chemical & Engineering News, earned master’s and doctoral degrees in chemistry at Wichita State. In 2007, as a graduate teaching assistant for a new forensic science course, he helped create lab exercises, one of which, he recalls, featured giving the undergrad students a white powder and then teaching them how to identify the substance.
Samms moved to Houston to work at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, where he identified substances obtained by law enforcement. Many substances turned out to be the illicit drugs cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine. But in 2010, Samms says, “We started seeing these crazy things called designer drugs. We got to the point where we were seeing a new type of substance almost every day – so we got all kinds of analytical puzzles.” In 2013, Samms became the institute’s director of toxicology and chemistry. Among his duties is testifying as an expert witness in court and before Texas legislative committees. Recently, he says, his team has seen an upward trend in designer fentanyls (synthetic opioids). He’s not seeing a slow-down in the designer drug trade.
“On the job,” he says, “there’s never a dull moment.”