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Relive Past ISHI Conferences Through Video
Advice for Leaders
Whether you've just been promoted to a leadership role or have been managing employees for years, questions on how to best lead never stop. In this video, Susan Greenspoon of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and Tiffany Vasquez of The New York Office of Chief Medical Examiner share words of wisdom.
An Interview with a Pioneer in Forensic Science, Cecilia Crouse
Before shows like CSI became popular, scientists like Dr. Cecilia Crouse, former Lab Director at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Crime Laboratory, paved the way for future generations. In this interview, Dr. Crouse shares how she first came to work in the field of forensic science, the case that has stuck with her through the years, and how she balanced family and career.
An Interview with the DNA Doe Project – Identifying the Unknown Through Genetic Genealogy
The DNA Doe Project is a an all-volunteer organization dedicated to using genetic genealogy to identify John and Jane Does. Working with law enforcement, they are able to find success even when the DNA was highly degraded. Their DoeFundMe program allows for public donations to solve cases when resources may not be otherwise available. We sat down with Margaret Press and Colleen Fitzpatrick, co-founders of the DNA Doe Project. They describe how the DNA Doe Project was formed, how they’ve learned to overcome obstacles (such as degraded DNA), the differences in working with Doe cases versus criminal cases, and what it means to them to be able to provide identities to the unknown.
Autosomal and Y-STR Analysis of Degraded DNA from 120-Year-Old Skeletal Remains
Angie Ambers of the Institute of Applied Genetics (UNTHSC) describes how she processes skeletal remains to determine an individual's identity, and how she identified a Confederate guerilla scout from the American Civil War using this technology.
Clearing the Sexual Assault Backlog in Murdertown, USA
Clearing the sexual assault backlog in the US has become a top priority over the past couple of years, because each rape kit that sits on a shelf untested represents a victim whose case has not yet been investigated. In Flint, Michigan, the backlog stood at 1,047 untested kits when Jen Janetsky became an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney at the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office. Prior to the shuttering of the GM plant in Flint, the town was booming with prosperity. Once the plant closed, those who could leave town did, and the tax base was cut in half overnight. 200 police officers turned into 88, leaving only 5 police officers to patrol the streets at night and 1 detective to investigate every sexual assault case. Murdertown, USA was born. So who would get justice for Jessica, a woman living with a degenerative nerve condition who was raped in front of her husband and small daughter? In this powerful interview, Jen describes how Flint, Michigan tackled their sexual assault backlog with limited man power, provides tips to other jurisdictions facing similar challenges, and shares how she fights to get justice for victims of sexual assault.
Dr. Chelsey Juarez Explains How Isotopic Analysis Works
In cases where medical examiners are limited by the information that DNA analysis can provide, forensic anthropologists may be able to shed some light. As specialists in the hard tissues of the body, such as teeth, bones, fingernails, and even hair, forensic anthropologists tell the story of the deceased. When dealing with cold cases, this information can provide investigators with a place to start.
Ethical Issues Around Investigative Genealogy
Using public DNA databases, such as GEDmatch has led to closing over 50 cold cases since April of 2018, but few regulations have been put in place, and questions regarding privacy remain. Which types of cases warrant the use of investigative genealogy techniques and what/if any safeguards should be enacted? Craig Klugman, a Bioethicist at DePaul University details the issues surrounding commercial DNA databases, using these databases for investigative genealogy purposes, and offers some paths forward.
Highlights from ISHI 30 in Palm Springs, CA
Keynote Speaker, Paul Holes, retired from the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, relates the chilling story of the case that dogged him for over 20 years—the notorious Golden State Killer, who committed over 100 burglaries, more than 50 rapes and at least 13 murders from 1974 to 1986. You can watch his presentation here: https://youtu.be/SulGysw876I. 2019 saw continued interest in the power of genetic genealogy, and included the unveiling of new DOJ policy on how it should be used. Other topics included Rapid DNA, emerging technologies in the field, massively parallel sequencing, and much more!
Inside the Mind of a Sadistic Serial Rapist and Criminal
During the interesting cases session at the 21st ISHI, retired FBI criminal profiler and forensic scientist Peter Smerick explored the mind and world of James Mitchell DeBardelben. While largely anonymous, DeBardelben had one of the most vicious and varied criminal careers in American history. He was an elusive con artist, bank robber, bank extortionist, and professional kidnapper. He was also a sadistic serial rapist and murderer believed to have sexually assaulted hundreds of women over an 18-year span. Assigned to the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, Smerick is a leading expert in criminal profiling who has consulted and lectured internationally regarding homicides, kidnappings, extortion, stalking and product tampering cases.
Into the Wild: Translating DNA-Based Human Identification Techniques to a Wildlife Attack
Maureen Hickman of Western Carolina University describes how researchers were able to apply forensically relevant methods and techniques to wildlife cases, including identification of nuisance animals or in the case of an animal attack.
Mixture Interpretation in DNA Forensics – An Interview with Greg Hampikian
Greg Hampikian, Executive Director of the Idaho Innocence Project, discusses concerns he has with current mixture interpretation procedures in DNA analysis, changes he’d like to see for the future, including the wider adoption of mixture interpretation software, and thoughts on how to improve forensic science.
New Advances in DNA Technology to Assist with Mass Casualty Disasters
Mandy Sozer of SNA International describes how DNA technology has changed over the past 30 years and how new advances are helping to bring closure to families of mass casualty victims. We also discuss the importance of educating the public about DNA for forensic use and why women seem to be drawn to the field of forensic science.
Raised as Paul Fronczak, Genetic Genealogy Uncovers His True Identity
Paul Fronczak spent his life wondering if he was a baby who’d been kidnapped from a Chicago hospital. As an adult, DNA tests confirmed that detectives had gotten it wrong. CeCe Moore, founder of The DNA Detectives describes how she was able to use commercial DNA databases to help Paul uncover his true identity.
The Future of Synthetic Biology – An Interview with Andrew Hessel
What if you could cure cancer with a synthetic virus or pre-load your children with genetic information? The future of synthetic biology is here. In this interview, Andrew Hessel, founder of Humane Genomics, explains how tailor-made viruses may one day cure cancer, how IVF will be replaced by a less expensive and more effective method, why it is likely that whole genome sequencing will become more popular, and the privacy protections that may be needed in the future.
The Golden Age of Genomics – ISHI 2018 Keynote Presentation
Andrew Hessel of Humane Genomics presents on the golden age of genomics: where DNA reading, analysis, and genetic design are being supercharged by digital technologies. The implications for humanity and the environments that we touch are nothing less than profound.
The Golden State Killer – ISHI 2019 Keynote
Paul Holes, retired from the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, relates the chilling story of the case that dogged him for over 20 years—the notorious Golden State Killer, who committed over 100 burglaries, more than 50 rapes and at least 13 murders from 1974 to 1986. Ultimately, Holes solved the case in collaboration with a genetic genealogist, using the relatively new—and controversial—technique of forensic genetic genealogy (FGG) or investigative genetic genealogy.
The Origins of the International Symposium on Human Identification
Decades before forensic science fascinated Hollywood, many of the real-life heroes of forensics gathered over the longest-running and largest conference in the world focusing on DNA typing for human identification. For the past 29 years, the International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI) has brought together forensic professionals from around the world to discuss and debate issues that are important and sometimes controversial in the field, to share new ideas and to collaborate to advance forensic science. The first ISHI was convened in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1989. Why Madison? The city is where the biotech company Promega Corporation got its start 40 years ago. Among the most promising products the company began manufacturing in the late 1980s were VNTR and RFLP probes that could be used in the emerging field of DNA forensics. Promega founder and CEO, Bill Linton discusses why he organized the first symposium, how the industry has evolved and his thoughts on the future of forensics.
Using DNA at the Border: Untangling Misconceptions
As the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy unfolded in Spring-Summer 2018, so too did a barrage of stories around migrant children being separated from their parents, and then mandates to re-unify them by judge-ordered deadlines. Atop the chaos were calls for DNA testing to screen migrants for trafficking, offers from genomics companies to donate tests and reagents, and the announcement of DNA as a tool to reunify families. As legislators, civil liberties advocates, geneticists, ethicists, and attorneys got involved, the media sprang into action to translate for the public the convoluted history of the use of DNA in immigration. Various tests were confused: consumer genomic services vs. commercial relationship testing services vs. forensic DNA laboratories. In this interview, Sara Katsanis and Jen Wagner discuss how they hope to inform future policy discussions through research they’ve collected regarding what media reports on using DNA at the border. They also touch on common misconceptions the public may have regarding DNA and call on the forensic community to help correct those misunderstandings.
Using Genetic Genealogy to Provide Answers – an Interview with CeCe Moore
Sarah Dingle, an investigative journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation interviews CeCe Moore to discuss how she's used genetic genealogy to help adoptees and donor conceived individuals find their biological families and is now applying the same techniques to cold cases. Topics discussed include: how CeCe got her start in genealogy, the challenges that occur when working foundling or adoptee cases, how public DNA testing has changed family histories and impacted donor conception, and how genetic genealogy is helping to identify criminals, including misconceptions held by the public.
Using Isotopes to Tell the Stories of the Unidentified
According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), 600,000 individuals go missing in the United States each year. While many are quickly found, it is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with 1,000 of them remaining unidentified after one year. All told, there are currently more than 40,000 sets of human remains listed as unidentified in the United States. While advances in DNA technology have assisted in providing identities for many, limitations remain, especially with populations that are non-native to the United States. Many who have perished while attempting to migrate from Latin American countries have no genetic relatives in the United States, and they are undocumented. Those who may be relatives are hesitant to come forward to submit DNA, because they are also undocumented. Without reference samples to use for comparison, the power of DNA is limited. In cases where medical examiners are limited by the information that DNA analysis can provide, forensic anthropologists may be able to shed some light. As specialists in the hard tissues of the body, such as teeth, bones, fingernails, and even hair, forensic anthropologists tell the story of the deceased by providing a biological profile. This profile includes the sex, age, ancestry, living stature at the time of death, and a rough post-mortem interval. They are also able to determine if trauma or disease was present. In this video, Dr. Chelsey Juarez of Fresno State describes how specially trained forensic anthropologists are able to perform an isotopic analysis to help determine where a person may have lived.
Women Advancing Forensics: Allison Sherier
Meet some of the women who are propelling the field of forensic science forward. In this interview, we meet Allison Sherier, a PhD Student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Allison’s career in science began with her studying beef cattle breeding and genetics, but her desire to make an impact led her to forensic science. As she wraps up her academics, she hopes to one day work in a crime lab where she can bring massively parallel sequencing online and assist with the data analysis. Outside of the lab, Allison enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and young son, and is actively involved in rescuing and training dogs, specifically Cardigan Welsh Corgis. Allison continues to work on finding an optimal work/life balance and hopes to continue to be a mentor to young women considering a career in forensics.
Women Advancing Forensics: Fabiana Taglia
Meet some of the women who are propelling the field of forensic science forward. In this interview, we meet Fabiana Taglia, a PhD Student at Florida International University. Originally from Rome, Italy, Fabiana’s career paths took many twists and turns, but her perseverance to follow her dreams led her to Dr. Bruce McCord’s lab while her family remained in Italy. Fabiana has already been a mentor and role model to many, but after she graduates, she hopes to become a research professor. In this interview, Fabiana’s passion shows through as she discusses how she balances her career with being a mother to a young son and shares her wishes and advice for the next generation.
Women Advancing Forensics: Mirna Ghemrawi
Meet some of the women who are propelling the field of forensic science forward. In this interview, we meet Mirna Ghemrawi, a PhD Student at Florida International University. Originally from Lebanon, Mirna was awarded a number of scholarships to learn English and then pursue her career in forensic science. She has wanted to be a forensic scientist since she was young and hopes to one day bring forensics back to her home country. She enjoys teaching the next generation, and we know that her determination will lead to her changing the field. In this interview, Mirna discusses her research, why she wanted to be an ISHI ambassador, and her hopes for future scientists.
Women Advancing Forensics: Rachel Kieser
Meet some of the women who are propelling the field of forensic science forward. In this interview, we meet Rachel Kieser of the University of North Texas Health Science Center. A woman of many talents, Rachel found her career path in forensic science serendipitously. She’s had a love for the double helix as long as she can remember, but only through exploring other avenues did she find that her heart lies with research and academia. Rachel has already accomplished a great deal with it comes to working with degraded DNA, and there is no doubt that we will be hearing more from her in the future. In this interview, Rachel shares her quirky side as she describes her ideal superpower, her passion as she discusses her work, and her wisdom as she shares her advice for the next generation.
Women Advancing Forensics: Susan Greenspoon
Meet some of the women who are propelling the field of forensic science forward. In this interview, we meet Susan Greenspoon of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science. Susan got her start in forensic science by chance. As a post-doctoral fellow in a Molecular Neuroscience lab, she happened upon an ad for a Forensic Molecular Biologist role at Virginia DFS. The job ‘ticked many of her boxes’, so she gave it a try and hasn’t looked back. During the course of her 18-year tenure, she has seen a lot, and shares some of those stories in this interview. She also discusses the inviting nature of those in the forensic science field, and offers advice to those seeking leadership roles.
Women Advancing Forensics: Tabitha Bandy
Meet some of the women who are propelling the field of forensic science forward. In this interview, we meet Tabitha Bandy, Technical Leader and DNA Supervisor at the Nashville Metro Police Crime Lab. Tabitha began her career in research, but decided to give forensics a try, though there were limited positions at the time. Thanks the popularity of the CSI television shows, she has watched the interest in forensics grow. She has always been interested in bioinformatics and may be one of the few who is excited to see statistics become more prevalent in DNA. In this interview, Tabitha discusses what she enjoys about being in a leadership position, advice for others considering leadership roles, and words of wisdom for other women in the field.
Women Advancing Forensics: Tiffany Vasquez
Meet some of the women who are propelling the field of forensic science forward. In this interview, we meet Tiffany Vasquez, an Assistant Technical Leader at the New York Office of Chief Medical Examiner. Though Tiffany recently celebrated her 15 year anniversary with the OCME, she never knew that forensic science would be her calling. In this interview, she shares what her favorite parts of the job are, provides advice for others who are looking to move into leadership roles, and discusses some of the challenges in working in forensics.