A knock on the locked door of Room 232 may mean police have made a drug bust and need to confirm that the white powder they confiscated is cocaine.
It could also be wildlife officials wanting to find out if venison taken from the freezer of a man with one deer tag came from more than one animal.Or it might be a prosecutor wanting to find out if the cat hairs found on an assault suspect's coat came from the victim's animal.
The door is the entrance to the state crime lab at Weber State College, where more than 2,300 cases were handled last year.
"Each knock on the door could be anything," said James Gaskill, director of the lab and criminal justice professor for the college.
"We're taxed to use our ingenuity, which is why we find the job fun," said Gaskill, who works with three other full-time employees.
Although 400 students a year use the lab as a learning facility, they are never allowed to handle evidence to avoid tainting its validity, Gaskill said.
One of the lab's recent assignments was identifying the chemicals that Peggy Braegger Johnson, who was convicted of attempted murder, was accused of giving to her husband.
"We found oxalic acid (which is poisonous) in what were supposed to be antibiotic capsules," Gaskill said.
He said drugs account for 60 percent to 70 percent of the lab's business, and although the white powder brought in by police is usually identified as cocaine, Gaskill said occasionally it turns out to be talcum powder.
One undercover agent made a hashish buy that turned out to be rabbit droppings.
"He hasn't lived that one down yet," Gaskill said.
"You have to realize that drug dealers are crooks," he said. "You never know if a purchase is what a drug dealer tells you it is.
"More importantly, potency of a drug almost always varies. Ten speed pills may not have anything stronger in them than caffeine, or the dosage may be potent enough to kill you," Gaskill said.
The lab, one of two now operating in the state, serves all of northern Utah and parts of Wyoming. The other state crime lab is located in Salt Lake City.
But from 1972 until about 1980, the Weber State lab was the only one in Utah.
"There was a one-man operation in Cache County, but they recently lost their one man," Gaskill said.
In addition to assignments from law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and occasionally defense attorneys, the lab handles quite a few cases for the Division of Wildlife Resources.
The lab once was asked to analyze venison found in a freezer to determine if a hunter had killed more than one deer. "The lab found three different blood types, evidence the wildlife people could use in building a case against the man for illegally killing more than one deer," said Gaskill.
In the case where police brought in cat hairs they had found on an assault suspect's coat, the lab proved the hairs came from the victim's cat, not those of the suspect.
He said that although most of the crime lab work is done on campus, workers occasionally are called out to assist at the scene of an investigation such as the recent accidental deaths of a Harrisville couple who died from carbon monoxide fumes.