Ecstasy specialist becomes new director

Emily Johnson and Emily Johnson

If anyone had asked Jon E. Sprague twenty-five years ago if he would be the new director of the Attorney General’s Center of the Future of Forensic Science he would say “There’s no way.” It’s been a long journey for Dr. Sprague but he is ready to give back to Ohio.

“This one really intrigues me … This is truly innovative.” Sprague said.

Sprague started his first day with his new position Monday Sept. 22nd.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Center of the Future of Forensic Science is the partnership of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, BCI and the University. The center is a state-of-the-art Ohio crime lab that will be used with law enforcement over 22 counties and will give students and faculty members new opportunities and learning in Forensic Science.

“Dr. Sprague brings a wealth of scientific knowledge and expertise, and we look forward to the energy and passion he will bring to the center,” President Mazey said in a press release.

The Center will be offering specializations in forensic chemistry, forensic biology and forensic investigation. In the future, there is hope to expand the options into areas such as forensic account, digital evidence, criminal psychology and more.

The University Research & Economic Development and BCI collaborated to look for candidates for the new director position.

“We were looking for someone familiar with BCI, has worked in academic programming and professional training, and someone who is an established researcher … And Dr. Sprague fit the bill,” Michael Ogawa, Ph.D. Vice President of the Research and Economic Development and Dean of the Graduate College said.

Sprague, a native of Angola, Michigan, was attracted to pharmaceuticals at an early age from his mother who was a nurse working in the medical field. He had a liking to biology and chemistry in high school and as stock boy in a drug store, he couldn’t wait to become the Pharmacist.

Sprague pursued a degree in Pharmacy at Ferris State University and after graduating he worked as a Pharmacist for a year before deciding to go back to school to earn his Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology at Purdue University.

After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Sprague began working the field of academia. He began with a position as an Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Purdue University. He later worked for Ohio Northern, Virginia Tech, and back to his alma mater, Ferris State University.

Sprague’s research specializes in the analysis of ecstasy and in 2001, the National Institutes of Health asked Sprague to speak about his research at a conference. During Sprague’s lecture, a colleague asked a question that changed Sprague’s life.

With Sprague stumped by the question, the colleague said “let’s talk.” Sprague admits this was the spark that led to the explosion of research he began working on with ecstasy, “which led to the snowball effect of job opportunities,” he said.

While working at Ferris University, the epidemic of bath salts and spice spread through the younger generation. The BCI and Attorney General called Sprague to help them gain knowledge and help train professionals to help identify, prosecute and write laws for these drugs. Through working with the BCI, Sprague caught the attention of Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, which asked him to be the lead director of the Attorney General’s Center of the Future of Forensic Science.

“This [position] really intrigued me … How truly innovated this is, to have a state funded crime lab on a university campus,” Sprague said. “I feel that I am giving back to society with my expertise.”

The center funded by Attorney General, Mike DeWine, with the mission to develop educational programs in forensic science, provides professional training opportunities in forensic science for professionals in the state of Ohio and promotes research in forensic science.

“I’ve lived the life of ‘how do you get different academic units to work together to build something,’ I’ve lived the life of ‘how do you hire faculty to build this even further,’ and on top of it I am a toxicologist … Which is a branch of Forensic Science.” Sprague goes on to explain, “Which I think it blends together [all the functions for this position] well.”

Sprague advises people to keep an open mind while in college.

“I am here for a reason,” Sprague said. “I hope that the state of Ohio will look back and go ‘wow, that director really made something happen.’”