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The International Forensic Research Institute presented an exciting and informative new Forensic Science Seminar Series.

Mobile Forensic Laboratories: Put a Forensic Lab On a Parking Lot

Crime Laboratories don’t have to be brick-and-mortar. When forensic capabilities are required in situ, a deployable, fully-functional laboratory can be an effective solution. The National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC@FIU) has worked with the US Department of Defense to develop and refine these modular spaces that can provide immediate and flexible analysis space for almost any forensic discipline.

Bioinformatic Methods for Analysis of Forensic DNA by Massively Parallel Sequencing

The analysis of massively parallel sequencing (MPS) data differs in fundamental ways from the analysis of capillary electrophoresis (CE) data. Whereas CE methods measure the length feature of DNA fragments, MPS methods measure the nucleotide sequence feature of DNA fragments (and indirectly, the length feature). Currently, sequence information is analyzed with forensic DNA analysis software using several different analysis methods. The two most common methods along with their advantages and disadvantages will be described: 1) alignment (i.e. approximate matching) to reference sequences, and 2) reference-free cluster-sort methods (approximate or exact). The MPS method itself will be described to include discussions on characterization of instrumental signal and noise; and the forensics-specific problem of designing reasonable sequence-based allele nomenclatures for forensic databasing.

How did they catch the Golden State Killer?

On April 24, 2018, police in Sacramento, CA arrested Joseph DeAngelo, 72, in the Golden State Killer case. DeAngelo, a retired policeman, was charged with a series of horrific crimes including 12 murders and more than 50 rapes that terrorized California from 1976 to 1986. Investigators found DeAngelo’s DNA profile could not be excluded from multiple forensic evidence samples stored for decades. The big break came when the genetic profile of the assailant was tested against an online genealogy database, GEDmatch, and a partial match was observed. DeAngelo’s profile, obtained from “abandoned” samples, identified him via the crime-scene evidence at all loci tested. What are the ethical issues in this case? Do the victims’ and public’s interest in solving serious crimes justify government efforts to match an assailant’s profile to genealogical and other databases?

Fire Investigation: Science or “Art?”

Fire investigation science today is an understanding of the role of ventilation in the production of fire patterns. Fire does not seek oxygen, but it will not burn where there is none. This realization, understood by the larger fire investigation community only in the last 10 years, is driving the forces of progress. The seminar will discuss the evolution and future of fire investigation.