Aug 24 2016

Under the Microscope – Kendra Felipe-Ortega


The ISHI27 agenda is already filling up with some 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 asked our speakers some questions 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 Tatiana Perez, who will be presenting Identification of Human Remains Buried at the Dozier School for Boys during the General Sessions on Wednesday, September 28th.

Kendra Felipe-Ortega has worked at UNT Center for Human ID since 2006 and has processed remains associated with the John Wayne Gacy investigation and the Pinochet massacre in Chile. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from UTSA and Master’s of Forensic Genetics from UNT Health Science Center.


How did you come to work in the field of forensics/DNA?

I stumbled upon a graduate degree program at UNTHSC in Forensic Genetics and upon completing that degree was lucky enough to be hired by the UNT Center for Human ID.

What is your favorite thing about your job? Why?

My job requires a lot of multitasking.  It never gets boring.


What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?

Trying to get results from degraded remains.


What accomplishment are you most proud of relating to forensics/DNA?

I am very proud to work for an institution that processes unidentified human remains. It’s not something every lab is equipped to handle so I’m proud to be a part of a system that helps so many people find closure when they otherwise wouldn’t have any where to turn.


If you’ve attended ISHI before, what keeps you coming back? If you’ve never attended before, what are you most looking forward to at ISHI27?

I enjoy the amount and diversity of presentations at ISHI.  There is always something new to learn in this field and ISHI tries to represent many different topics every year.



When you were little, what career did you think you’d have as an adult?

When I was little I really wanted to be a lawyer.  I’ve always loved to argue.  Somewhere along the way that changed and by high school I wanted to go into a science field.


Where do you see the future of forensic science headed?

I think we’re heading towards an era of forensic science where DNA will lead to detailed physical descriptions of suspects that can be used as investigative leads.  What the implications of that might be, I’m not sure, but I think it’s where we are going.

What do you hope the audience learns/takes away from your talk?

I hope they can take away a more personal attachment to events like those that occurred at the Dozier School for Boys.  The more people that hear about these types of atrocities and take them to heart the less likely we are to repeat them.

What person would you say has had the biggest influence in your career?

I would have to say my husband.  He willingly moved across the state with me so I could pursue my graduate degree and without his support I wouldn’t have made it this far.

If you could time-travel, what year would you go to and why?

I would go back to a point in time in the Cretaceous period.  I would love to know exactly how dinosaurs like the T-Rex looked and how they interacted with each other.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

I am one of the few individuals who loves both.  I absolutely cannot choose between them.