Under the Microscope – Zane Kerr

The ISHI 26 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’ll be posting their responses over the coming months in a feature we like to call Under the Microscope.






Today, we’re chatting with Zane Kerr, who will be presenting Two Years Later: A Reflection on the Implementation of STRmix™ in a High-Throughput DNA Laboratory during the General Sessions.

Zane Kerr is a Senior Forensic Biologist at the New South Wales Forensic & Analytical Science Service in Lidcombe, Australia. He received his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science – Forensic Biology (Honours) from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia and Certificate of Advanced Studies in Statistics and the Evaluation of Forensic Evidence from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Mr. Kerr is the NSW representative of the Australasian Scientific Working Group – Forensic DNA Statistics (StatSWG). His areas of interest include the statistical evaluation of DNA profiles and the use of expert interpretation systems such as STRmix™ and TrueAllele®.


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

I’ve always had a keen interest in science. After finishing high school, I started a degree in biomedical science. While the course material was interesting, there just seemed to be something lacking. In 2004 I made the switch to a degree in forensic biology at the University of Technology, Sydney. After completion of an honours research project in 2007 I obtained a position as a forensic biologist at the NSW Forensic & Analytical Science Service.


If you woke up tomorrow and this field no longer existed, what would you choose for a career?

I love insects and would love to work as an entomologist.


What new technologies are you most excited about or where do you see the field heading in the next 10 years?

I believe that there will be an increased uptake of expert systems such as STRmix™ and TrueAllele® for the interpretation of DNA profiles. This will hopefully improve consistency between laboratories when evaluating DNA profiles, particularly complex profiles such as mixed and degraded samples.


What was the most challenging or bizarre case that you’ve worked on?

NSW FASS recently tested a sexual assault case where DNA recovered from semen on the suspect’s penile swab matched the DNA profile of the complainant’s consensual partner. It was hypothesised that semen from the consensual partner transferred from the vaginal cavity of the complainant to the suspect’s penis during the alleged assault.


Can you think of a specific example where ISHI has helped you in your career or with a case?

I attended ISHI for the first time in 2015. It was a great experience and I am honoured to have been selected to present at this year’s conference.


Who in the audience would benefit most from your talk?

Laboratories that are considering implementing an expert system for the interpretation and statistical evaluation of DNA profiles.


If you won the lottery, what would you do with the winnings?

Travel around the world, possibly several times.


What would your ideal vacation be?

Somewhere hot where I can lie on a beach and read a good book.