Dec 07 2023

Announcing the New Members of the ISHI Advisory Committee

Meeting UpdateAnnouncement

The ISHI planning team is excited to announce the newest members of our Advisory Committee. The committee was formed to steer the content and format of the annual symposium to reflect the interests of the diverse stakeholders in the forensic science community.

 

As we embark on this next chapter, we first want to extend our deepest gratitude to our departing Advisory Committee members. Their dedication, insight, and invaluable contributions have been fundamental to our success and growth. The time, energy, and wisdom they have invested have left a lasting impact, and we are deeply appreciative of their efforts.

 

As we bid farewell to our esteemed colleagues, we also warmly welcome our new members to the Advisory Committee. Their diverse experiences, fresh perspectives, and enthusiasm are eagerly anticipated. We are excited to collaborate with them and look forward to the innovative ideas and contributions they will bring to our team.

 

We will be conferring with the Advisory Committee throughout the planning of the ISHI conference. Together, we will continue to strive towards our shared goals and make significant strides in our endeavors. We are thankful to both the departing members and those just joining for their commitment to excellence and for being an integral part of our journey.

 

 

 

Dr. Rhonda Williams

Associate Professor, University of Central Oklahoma

Rhonda Williams, Ph.D., worked in the forensic DNA field for approximately 15 years. She enjoys teaching others about the field of forensics. She previously worked at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, Texas, for eight years as a DNA analyst and crime scene analyst and in the OSBI CODIS unit for seven years.
 

Michelle Madrid

Senior Criminalist / DNA Technical Leader, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

Michelle Madrid is a Senior Criminalist and the DNA Technical Leader for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Molecular Biology and a Master of Science Degree in Criminalistics. Michelle has worked in the Biology Section for 18 years and has played an integral role in training, and in evaluating and validating new methods. She is certified by the American Board of Criminalistics in Molecular Biology. Michelle is also part of her lab’s CSI team and responds to various types of scenes including homicides, assaults, and fire scenes to assist in the documentation and collection of biological and trace evidence. She was a part of the Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Forensic DNA Interpretation which conducted a scientific assessment of the effects of human factors in forensic DNA examination and recommended approaches to improve its practice and reduce the likelihood of errors. Michelle is a member of OSAC’s Human Forensic Biology Subcommittee’s and serves as the Executive Secretary. In addition, she serves on the American Board of Criminalistics Examination Committee. When not working, she spends as much time as possible outdoors hiking, camping, and traveling to faraway places.
 

Dr. Michael Coble

Executive Director, Center for Human Identification, UNTHSC

Michael Coble, PhD, is an Associate Professor and the Executive Director of the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Coble received his Master’s Degree in Forensic Science and his PhD in Genetics from The George Washington University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a member of the International Society for Forensic Genetics. He serves as a commissioner of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and is an invited guest at the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM). He is a co-editor of the Forensic Biology subject area of WIREs Forensic Science journal and is a member of the editorial boards of Forensic Science International: Genetics and the Journal of Forensic Sciences.
 

Julie Sikorsky

Forensic Scientist Manager, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Julie Conover Sikorsky began her career in 2002 as a Senior Forensic Scientist with the Forensic Biology Unit of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. In 2012 she was promoted to manage the Unit of now over twenty talented and dynamic individuals. Julie is currently the Chair of the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) Credentials Committee, a member of the Criminalistics section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), a member of the International Association of Forensic Genetics (ISFG), and a member of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD). Julie is active in her local Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) where she was awarded member of the year in 2019.

Julie is certified in molecular biology by the ABC and has her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. She is a qualified ISO Assessor and has offered expert witness testimony over 100 times. Julie has numerous publications and frequently presents at meetings, conferences, and trainings. Julie serves as a peer-reviewer for forensic journals and is a member of the Advisory Board for Keiser University. Julie has a bachelor of science degree in molecular biology from the University of California at San Diego as well as two master’s degrees from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia; one in forensic science and the other in biomedical sciences.

Julie enjoys running, yoga, food/wine, travel, reading (Audible), podcasts and of course, all things forensic and true crime.

 

Jim Thomson

Scientific Knowledge Manager, Eurofins Forensic Services

Jim has over 30 years’ experience working in the fields of forensic identity testing and genotyping. He started his career at the Royal London Hospital in 1986, helping to establish the new DNA Fingerprinting techniques to support one of the first DNA-based paternity testing services in the UK.

Since 1995 he has worked for LGC and now Eurofins Forensic Services, where he is the Scientific Knowledge Manager and the Science Lead for DNA. In his time there has played a key role in establishing and supporting a number of different DNA based forensic and diagnostic services. These have included the first independent National DNA Database reference laboratory which opened in 1997 and the establishment and ongoing developments of Eurofins’ crime stain and casework DNA laboratories. He leads an R&D team focussed on forensic DNA projects, and his role now extends to include Eurofins forensic laboratories in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands with whom he facilitates collaborations and knowledge sharing.

 

Why were you interested in participating in the advisory committee and what do you hope to contribute?

Rhonda: I hope to improve the ISHI meetings and help determine content.

Michelle: ISHI is always one of the most interesting annual DNA meetings. The speakers cover a range of topics and I hope to contribute insight into what the community is interested in hearing and learning more about now. I also look forward to getting a firsthand look at potential presentation abstracts and workshop submissions.

Mike: ISHI has been a go-to meeting for me for over 20 years and I have always had an appreciation of the hard work and dedication of the ISHI team to keep their focus and provide the forensic DNA community with the highest quality program each year. When I was asked to participate in the advisory committee, I didn’t have to think twice. I am honored to be able to “give back” to ISHI and the forensic DNA community by working with my colleagues on the advisory committee to continue the outstanding quality of conference.

Julie: I was interested in participating in the ISHI Advisory Committee because I was excited by the prospect of helping to shape the content of future Symposiums. I hope to bring my experiences as a DNA caseworking analyst and forensic biology manager to the committee; leveraging the opportunities I’ve had and relationships I’ve built throughout my career to help identify the most relevant and timely topics (and challenges) facing forensic biologists today.

Jim: The advisory committee offers a great opportunity to get close to the exciting developments across the full spectrum of forensic genetics and genomics. I hope that my long history and experience in an operational laboratory environment focused on efficient delivery of many of these methods to our police customers will help the committee to prioritise areas of most direct value to the end-user and the justice system.

 

How many ISHI meetings have you attended and in what capacity?

Rhonda: I have been to 6 ISHI meetings in my career.

Michelle: Too many to count! I’d guess I’ve probably attended close to 10 ISHI’s but don’t hold me to that! Typically, I’ve attended as a participant but at this last ISHI in Denver, I was one of a few presenters for a workshop on our Human Factors Working Group.

Mike: I believe my first ISHI meeting was back in 1999. I have been fortunate to attend ISHI nearly every year with the exception of missing a meeting or two along the way. I was in my third year of my PhD program and was working on my thesis at AFDIL. It was such a great meeting to have everyone focused on DNA. A year or so later, I gave my first presentation in a workshop on my thesis research with mitochondrial DNA. More recently, I have had the honor to chair workshops at ISHI.

Julie: I have attended nine ISHI meetings since 2008 in varying capacities, from regular attendee to workshop chair and mainstage speaker.

  • 2023 – attendee, workshop presenter, poster
  • 2022 – attendee, workshop presenter, plenary speaker
  • 2021 – attendee, workshop chair
  • 2019 – attendee, moderator
  • 2017 – attendee, poster
  • 2015 – attendee
  • 2013 – attendee
  • 2012 – attendee, workshop speaker and speaker at TL meeting
  • 2008 – attendee, speaker at interesting cases breakout and TL meeting, poster

Jim: Sadly, I have only managed to attend a few meetings in the past. I still remember my first, in 1992 in Scottsdale, Arizona as a junior scientist on my first trip to the USA! My most recent ISHI was Dallas in 2015 when I was lucky enough to be able to present our work on the identification of Australian soldiers found on the site of the 1916 Battle of Fromelles using mitochondrial and Y-chromosome markers – a challenging and very moving project and a great tale to tell.

 

What is your favorite thing about the conference? Do you have any memories from a past ISHI meeting that you’d like to share?

Rhonda: My favorite event ISHI experience is always the big party. I recall having a great time at the Red Rocks Vegas event.

Michelle: The people, by far! ISHI is always a great chance to catch up with people you may only see once per year. Of course, the evening receptions and off-site events are always a highlight too. My most memorable moments are those that involve the perfect mix of learning, laughter, meeting new people and making new connections over a beverage, or two.

Mike: No matter the location or venue, ISHI is a place where I am able to reconnect with friends all over the world. These connections have led to many new collaborations while chatting with colleagues at the poster sessions. I have also truly enjoyed the scientific presentations and workshops over the years. I think the opening plenary talks are truly outstanding and thought provoking. Probably one of my favorite memories was being able to meet and listen to the incredible story of Kirk Bloodsworth, the first DNA exoneration of a man sentenced to death in the US. His presentation was both extremely sad and inspiring.

Julie: My favorite aspect of ISHI is the networking. Not only are the ‘who’s who’ of forensic biology in attendance, but the event feels like a reunion – I get to catch up with colleagues, past interns – as well as meet newcomers to the field.

Aside from my very first ISHI (Hollywood, CA), one of the most memorable ISHI conferences for me was in Grapevine, Texas when John Butler brought his lasso and showed us his trick roping prior to the beginning of a session. Thankfully I still have a video of the occasion so I can relive that moment over and over!

Jim: ISHI, and indeed Promega’s smaller symposia in Europe (which I regularly attend), are great for catching up with old contacts, and always for making new ones. Being based in the UK, it is always interesting to get the slightly different perspective of the US forensic community with the subtle (or not so subtle) differences in legal systems, forensic processes and workflows and culture all playing their part.

 

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