Robin Cotton of Boston University shares why she attends ISHI, what it was like testifying in the OJ Simpson trial, and how DNA technology has changed over the years.
Travis: So how many years have you been coming to ISHI?
Robin: When was the first meeting?
Travis: 29 years ago.
Robin: About that long.
Travis: Really? Which was your favorite ISHI?
Robin: The favorite, favorite was the couple of years that it was in the small resort in Scottsdale. And then the ISHI when it was in… A few years ago there was another one in Phoenix, that it was sort of out of town a ways. So I’m choosing my favorite ISHI based on location.
Travis: Ok, on location and not content.
Robin: Not content, because the content’s pretty stably good every time. And I’m old enough that I can’t remember the content from all those long ago meetings. And you know, it is big now. And it was small, and when it was small you had that feeling that were really interacting with the people there, so it was cool. And that old resort, it had like little pools everywhere, so you could kind of walk around the resort and there’d this little group in a pool, and some other little group in a pool. It was fun! And this is fun to, but in a different way.
Travis: So what in the world has brought you back that many times?
Robin: Uh, really, because all these people are all doing the same thing that I’m interested in. So, I was part of a workshop today, and part of the workshop was “how important is discussion”? Because we have some real issues, and if we don’t talk about them, they’re not going to get resolved. You have to talk about it enough, so you go, “So here’s the issue. And this thing is ancillary, and this thing is ancillary, but here’s the real issue.” And you only really get there through conversation. Communication about “what are you doing?” “What is this about?” “Why is this important?” “Why do you have a different opinion than I do?” Or whatever…
Travis: So, in all your years of DNA analysis, what’s the most interesting thing you ever worked on or did in your entire career?
Robin: I testified in the OJ Simpson trial.
Travis: You did what?!
Robin: I testified in the OJ Simpson trial, and so that was an experience that is not like any other experience that I’ve had, because it was, you know, all these people watching. So, then I had to think about how was I going to do my normal testimony and not get effected by all the stuff that was going on? And I did have to think about that, and my husband helped me think about that, and my colleagues helped me think about that. Anyway, that was the most interesting.
Travis: That’s pretty interesting. And I remember back… There was so much coverage. There was so many things going on.
Robin: And quite frankly, that’s now more than 20 years ago, right?
Robin: Yeah, 1995. And that’s not so relevant to what we’re doing now. What we’re doing now is much harder. I mean, mixtures are much harder. We have technical challenges as well that we haven’t completely figured out how to get the most DNA that you can possibly get or other things. And so the technical challenges now are more scientifically interesting. That was interesting from an event stance, but the science is actually more interesting now.
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