Under the Microscope – Cheryl Carreiro and Sevasti Papakanakis

The CT Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) Division of Scientific Services (DSS) Forensic Laboratory has successfully established a Rapid DNA Law Enforcement program for crime scene samples. Rapid DNA technology delivers lab-quality DNA profiles and database matches in ninety (90) minutes, as opposed to weeks or months when submitted to the laboratory for conventional DNA testing. The 24/7 access to prompt DNA testing, is an invaluable tool as it provides real-time investigative leads for major crimes.


The CT DESPP Division of Scientific Services Rapid DNA Law Enforcement Program trains officers to become operators of the Rapid DNA instrument. Trained officers run suspected single source evidence samples from crime scenes on the instrument to generate DNA profiles. When the run is completed, the profile, if acceptable, will be uploaded to a standalone database which searches the unknown DNA profile against a copy of the CT State Convicted Offender profiles. From that search, an investigative lead may be developed.


In their presentation at ISHI 33 this year, Cheryl and Sevasti will share lessons learned from implementing this program and next steps. We chatted with them to discuss training law enforcement officers on the instrument and advice for other labs looking to do the same.



Rapid DNA technology is a powerful tool for disaster and mass identification events, but your lab uses it in a different context. Can you explain?

We train officers and oversee the use of Rapid DNA technology to generate investigative leads from suspected single source crime scene samples.



Law enforcement officers don’t typically analyze DNA samples. How did you take this into account when designing the training program? Knowing what you know now, would you make any changes to the training?

The instrument is quite easy to operate, and the officers are trained to place the sample into a cartridge and run the sample on the instrument.  All samples are reviewed by Sevi and myself before anything is placed into the database to potentially develop a lead.



Can you share some successes that you’ve had since implementing this program?

We have had over 33 investigative leads generated.  Cases range from burglaries to homicides and body IDs.



I imagine your presentation will share what factors to consider for labs implementing a similar program, but if you could give only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Make sure to have all your SOPs, policies, and training guidelines online before starting the program.  Things will be modified as you go but having a strong foundation of how you are going to run the program really helps.



What tips would you give to someone who is just starting out in the field of forensics, or what is the best advice that you’ve received?

Ask a lot of questions and learn as much as you can from your veteran co-workers.



If you had to pick one thing, what do you enjoy most about your job?

Making a difference and helping the community.



If you’ve attended ISHI in the past, what do you most enjoy about coming to the conference? If you haven’t, what are you most looking forward to?

It is very forensic science based.  Interesting speakers and innovative topics.