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Associate Professor of Psychology and Sociology

Dr. Mara Merlino has certainly found a unique niche at Kentucky State University. An expert in interdisciplinary social psychology, Dr. Merlino has spent the past several years at KSU conducting research to determine the reliability of forensic document examination – the process used to determine, for example, the authenticity of signatures on a document – for use in the judicial system.

Dr. Merlino’s research – which has drawn international attention – has implications for the judicial process around the world, as it will help determine the degree to which “expert” testimony of forensic document examiners is reliable and valid. While her work at KSU focuses on the examination of documents – and specifically signatures – similar research is being conducted elsewhere on latent fingerprints.

“I came to KSU because I saw an opportunity to contribute more here than at other universities. When there isn’t much here to begin with, well – it was pretty much a blank slate. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because you can build in that situation. I saw the potential here to really impact the educational lives of students here by bringing some of my experience and the ability to conduct research on the justice system.”

A recent visitor to her lab in Hathaway Hall found Dr. Merlino talking casually with students about their research, guiding them and responding to questions.

“I view my purpose here as preparing students to go on, whatever that means. Any student who graduates from here with a degree in psychology, I try to encourage them to go on and get their masters or Ph.D. It’s important to me to help them prepare by giving them research opportunities.

“I always encourage my students to come into my lab to work. The lab is where you prove yourself so you can get into some of those higher level research programs.”

A native of Grand Junction, Colorado, Dr. Merlino earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in Interdisciplinary Social Psychology from the University of Nevada and a B.A. from Mesa State College in her hometown. She and her husband live in Frankfort. They enjoy gardening together – she’s the flower gardener, while he handles the vegetable garden. She also enjoys reading and writing in her spare time.