Sep 05 2017

Under the Microscope – James Landers


The ISHI agenda is live  and includes great talks from amazing speakers! While the forensic community is a tight-knit group, we can always get a little closer, right? With that in mind, we interviewed our speakers to preview their presentations and to get to know them a little better outside of their work. We’ve been posting their responses in a feature we like to call Under the Microscope.




Today, we’re chatting with James Landers, who will be presenting A New faSTR Forensic DNA System for Portable, Cost-Effective STR Profiling during the General Sessions on Thursday, October 5th.


How does microfluidic technology differ from traditional DNA analysis?

Microfluidic technology differs from conventional DNA analysis in that it involves microliter (and even nanoliter) volumes.  Capillary electrophoresis is, in essence, a microfluidic technology, primarily because of the volumes associated with the polymer and injected DNA.  However, true microfluidic systems provide a platform where all processes, from sample to output profile, can be integrated with essentially zero dead volume interconnects.  Enveloped with the necessary hardware (instrumentation), automation can be achieved.


How can this benefit a forensic laboratory?

Microfluidic systems present the possibility for more automated analysis, potentially in an expedited manner and with minimal use of reagents.


Where do you envision this technology being used (field based, borders, etc.)?

This particular microfluidic technology can be utilized in the lab, in the field and, potentially, at crime scenes.


How did you become involved in this project?

We have been involved in the development of microfluidic systems since the early 2000’s, and participated in the Rapid DNA movement that began in 2008.  While this development is focused on a limited loci panel designed for specific field deployment, the potential for a broader impact o forensic DNA analysis is clear.


What do you feel is the biggest challenge that forensics laboratories are facing today?

This is difficult for me to gauge.  While I train PhD students that often end up working in forensic laboratories, I have no experience working in a bona fide forensic lab.  That said, discussions with forensic scientists from crime labs, it is clear that there is a place for technology that fits into their current workflow, but expedites analysis.


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

Obtain a degree that meets with your career goals – pursue a MS in forensic science if you see yourself in the lab, a PhD if you want to pursue higher positions as a manager, leader or director.


How did you become interested in forensics?

Post-9/11, we shifted some of the focus of my research group from clinical projects to those more forensic in nature.  Funding from the FBI seeded our effort in microfluidic DNA extraction, PCR and STR separation.  It was from this effort that we were able to contribute to the Rapid DNA field and other avenues of forensic research and, more specifically, develop a research team focused on faSTR DNA analysis – STR profiling hat is ‘faster’ than ‘rapid’.


When you’re not at work, what do you most enjoy doing?

Playing hockey.


For those who are on the fence about registering for the upcoming ISHI, please share your thoughts and reasons why they should attend.

ISHI is a conference that is comprehensive in its coverage of forensic DNA research and case work, while providing a more global view of the importance of genetic analysis as a field.  Unlike larger society-based conferences (e.g., AAFS), it is large enough to meet a broad array of interest in DNA, but small enough to be intimate.