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Robert M Thompson (Fed)

Senior Forensic Science Research Manager

Robert M. Thompson is a Senior Forensic Science Research Manager with the Special Programs Office-Forensic Sciences at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) since 2008.  He has  over 40 years of experience as a Forensic Scientist and Criminalist.  He is certified in Criminalistics by the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) and is a past Chairman and current member of the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE) Certification Program Committee.  He is a Distinguished Member of AFTE and a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. 

Mr. Thompson was awarded a Master of Forensic Science degree from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science with Chemistry minor from the California State University in Sacramento, California.

Prior to joining NIST, Mr. Thompson was a Senior Firearms and Toolmark Examiner for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Forensic Science Laboratories, and a Forensic Scientist and Criminalist in crime laboratories with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department (Reno, Nevada), the Oregon State Police, and the GeneLex Corporation (Seattle, Washington).  His court accepted expert testimony includes Firearm/Toolmark Identification, Proximity Testing, Serology and DNA analysis, Drug Analysis, Hair and Fiber Examination, Blood Spatter Reconstruction, Shoe Print Comparison, and Crime Scene/Shooting Reconstruction.  Mr. Thompson has testified as an expert witness in numerous Federal and State courts and has active professional affiliations with several regional, national, and international forensic science societies and standards development organizations.

He is published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences; Forensic Science International; Journal for the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners; Proceedings of SPIE – The International Society for Optical Engineering; NIST Journal of Research; Surface Topography: Metrology and Properties, Measurement Science and Technology; Measurement Science Review; Inside ATF; FBI Crime Laboratory Digest; and the Proceedings of Saratov University (Russia).


2019   “Bronze Medal Award”; Group Award; “For novel contributions to the field of forensics by digitally preserving ballistic evidence from the John F. Kennedy assassination, for the benefit of future generations”; Department of Commerce

          Emmy; Project Manager-Forensic Scientist Role; Outstanding Director - Non-Live (Post Produced) for “Preserving the JFK Assassination Bullets” documentary video

2018   Emmy; researcher role; Outstanding Politics/Government - Program/Special for Detective X” documentary video

2014   “Gold Medal Award” for Heroism with Dr. William Billotte; Department of Commerce

2013   “Alfred A. Biasotti Most Outstanding Presentation Award”; California Association of Criminalists; Spring 2013 CAC Seminar

2003   “Special Act Award” to members of the ATF NIBIN Team

2001   “Special Act or Service Award” to members of the ATF NIBIN Team

2000   "Hammer Award" to the ATF National Firearms Examiner Academy Team, from Vice President Albert Gore

2000   "Secretary's Certificate", Department of the Treasury Annual Awards Ceremony, ATF Firearms Examiner Academy Group Award, from Secretary Lawrence Summers

1997   "Hammer Award" to the Ceasefire Program Team, from Vice President Al Gore

1995   “Employee of the Year”; Laboratory Services; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

1995     “Best Presentation by a Member”; Northwest Association of Forensic Scientists Fall Conference; Ashland, Oregon   


Surveying Practicing Firearm Examiners

Nicholas Scurich, Brandon Garrett, Robert M. Thompson
The comparison of discharged bullets and shell casings by firearm examiners is one of the most conducted forensic analyses. However, little is known empirically

NIST Ballistics Toolmark Research Database

Xiaoyu Alan Zheng, Johannes A. Soons, Robert M. Thompson, Sushama P. Singh, Cerasela Constantin
In 2009, a report by the National Academies called into question, amongst other issues, the objectivity of visual toolmark identification by firearms examiners

Pilot Study on Deformed Bullet Correlation

Zhe Chen, Jun-Feng Song, Johannes A. Soons, Robert M. Thompson, Xuezeng Zhao
Most studies on bullet identification address test fire bullet that have near pristine striation marks on the land engraved areas (LEAs). However, in case work
Created September 10, 2019, Updated December 8, 2022