Faculty/Staff/Student Directory


Department of Forensic Science

Sarah Kerrigan

Professor and Chair

  • Ph.D. Chemistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (1997)
  • B.S. Analytical Chemistry and Toxicology, University of Hull, Hull, England (1992)


Office: CFS-221A
Phone: (936) 294-4286

Areas of Expertise:
Forensic Science, Forensic Toxicology, Controlled Substances, Crime Laboratory Management, Quality Assurance


Dr. Kerrigan is a Professor and Chair of the Forensic Science Department at Sam Houston State University. She received her initial training in forensic at the Scotland Yard Forensic Science Laboratory (MPFSL) in London, England. Between 2001 and 2004 she served as Bureau Chief for the New Mexico Department of Health, Scientific Laboratory Division where she was responsible for the blood and breath alcohol program in addition to forensic drug and alcohol related medical examiner and criminal casework statewide. Prior to this she worked for the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensic Services in Sacramento, CA as a forensic toxicologist and Quality Assurance Manager. Between 2009 and 2012 she served as the Laboratory Director of the SHSU Regional Crime Laboratory, an independent, accredited forensic laboratory in The Woodlands, TX. Over a period of fifteen years Dr. Kerrigan has served as a forensic scientist or laboratory director in ASCLD-LAB, ABFT and ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories in the United States.

In 2011 Dr. Kerrigan served as the President of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT). She has served on the Board of Directors of this national organization since 2006. Over a period of six years Dr. Kerrigan served on the Board of Directors of the California Association of Toxicologists where she held a variety of elected positions, including President (2004-2005). She has chaired several committees of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists and American Academy of Forensic Sciences including Membership, Awards and Scholarship, and Drugs and Driving. Dr. Kerrigan is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a member of the Scientific Working Group on Toxicology (SWGTOX). Between 2009 and 2011, Dr. Kerrigan served as a Commissioner on the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). As part of the nation's efforts to initiate forensic reform at the federal level she was appointed to the Accreditation and Certification Interagency Working Group (IWG) of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Subcommittee on Forensic Science (SOFS) by the Office of the United States President in 2011. In 2014 she was appointed to the Forensic Science Standards Board, the governing body of the Organization for Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) by the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In 2018 she was appointed to serve on the National Institute of Justice Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG).

Dr. Kerrigan has been a contributing author in numerous forensic science textbooks including Encyclopedia of Forensic Science, Principles of Forensic Toxicology, Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Medical-Legal Aspects of Abused Substances, Forensic Nursing, Clarke's Analysis of Drugs and Poisons, among others. She has published numerous scientific articles in peer reviewed scientific journals on a wide range of topics including designer drugs, impaired driving, breath testing, forensic alcohol determination, narcotic analgesics, psychedelics, GHB, prescription drugs and sexual assault. She was appointed to and serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Journal of Forensic Sciences and Forensic Science Policy and Management. Dr. Kerrigan served on the faculty of the National Judicial College in Reno, NV for almost five years and has worked closely with law enforcement, attorneys and the judiciary on forensic issues for over a decade. Dr. Kerrigan was the recipient of the Irving Sunshine Toxicology Award from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in 2002. She was appointed to the Texas Forensic Science Commission by the Texas Attorney General in 2007 where she served as Vice Chair until 2014. She was reappointed to the Texas Forensic Science Commission in 2016 by the Texas Governor.

Research Interests:

Dr. Kerrigan's interests span a variety of topics ranging from policy to practice. She is active in terms of forensic science reform and enhancement of the profession as a whole. She is active in areas related to quality assurance, accreditation, leadership within the forensic sciences and laboratory administration.

Dr. Kerrigan has served as a forensic scientist, quality assurance manager, regional and state laboratory director in ASCLD/LAB, ABFT and ISO/IEC 17025 accredited forensic laboratories in the United States for more than fifteen years. Prior to her administrative experience, she received her original training in forensic toxicology. She has authored original research and book chapters on a variety of topics and maintains an active research agenda.

Some of her major areas of interest include new psychoactive substances (NPSs), designer drugs, human performance toxicology/behavioral toxicology and impaired driving. Much of her work has been devoted to the development of new analytical procedures for novel or emerging drugs of abuse, including psychostimulants and other designer amphetamines, including cathinones ("Bath Salts"). Other areas of interest include alcohol and drug-facilitated sexual assault, alternative and complex biological matrices and maternal-fetal medicine.

Current MS and PhD students in Dr. Kerrigan's laboratory are involved in a variety of projects including the systematic evaluation of cathinone stability, analysis of the opioid receptor agonist and psychoactive drug mitragynine ("Kratom") using high resolution mass spectrometry, desomorphine ("Krokodil") metabolism and analysis, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) in hair, and the new hypnotic drug suvorexant (Belsomra) in biological evidence.

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