Posted May 2009
Kimberly Murga is a forensic investigator. Her career has encompassed work on some of the most notorious cases in our nation’s recent past. A graduate of Chaminade University (1995), with a Master of Forensic Science Degree from George Washington University (1997), for 11 years Kim worked at the Armed Forces DNA laboratory in Rockville, Maryland. The primary mission of the lab is to identify remains from previous and current military conflicts. However, after September 11, 2001, Kim was increasingly called upon to help with investigations related to the global war on terror.
The first terrorist-related case Kim worked on was identifying the victims of the USS Cole bombing in October 2000. Later, she was involved with identifying the victims of the September 11 Pentagon attack and the Pennsylvania plane crash. Kim was one of the experts to identify the DNA of Uday and Qusay Hussein (sons of Saddam Hussein) when they were killed in a firefight in July of 2003, and help to build the DNA profile that would later confirm the identity of Saddam Hussein when he was captured in December of 2003. Kim has worked on numerous other high profile cases – many which she is not able to speak about.
Kim says she was “born to be a forensic investigator… and a mom.” Currently, motherhood helped with the decision to take a position working as a Laboratory Manager for the Biology/DNA Detail at “The Real CSI Las Vegas,” the Forensic Laboratory for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Nevada has given her active, young family a great environment to grow in. Her family has always been important to her, and is part of the picture in her stories of her career: Kim remembers being 6 months pregnant pulling an all-nighter for the quick turnaround on the confirmation of Saddam Hussein’s DNA sample.
At an early age, Kim knew she wanted to be a forensic scientist. Not only did dead people not frighten her, but she found the subject, well, fascinating. These revelations were not what her parents wanted to hear. But being an honest, intelligent, forthright, and organized person, (qualities which have helped her advance in her career,) she had conversations early and often with her parents about what she wanted to do in life. Forensic investigation eventually won out.
At Chaminade, Kim graduated with 2 undergraduate degrees, one in Biology and one in Criminal Justice. Always willing to speak up, in her first week at Chaminade Kim began questioning her professors about why they did not offer a degree in forensics. (Within a few years of Kim’s graduation, Chaminade did develop a forensic sciences degree program, in part a tribute to Kim’s power of persistence.)
While at Chaminade, Kim became intrigued with the then-new forensic methods of DNA analysis. In her senior year, Kim trained herself on a new piece of DNA testing equipment that Chaminade had just purchased for the biology lab, and wrote a research paper about it. This effectively launched her into the area that is now her specialty.
She feels that immersing herself at that time, “learning every DNA technique I could” set her up for future success. She believes hard work, honesty, and dedication are the secrets to a successful career—as well as a career you truly love. However she also admits that it can be difficult, and “everyone must find that motivation for themselves.”
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