Wearing Different ISHI Hats

ISHI 27 was my first ISHI and I spoke in the General Sessions.  I remember walking into the meeting room and thinking ‘oh God there are stairs up to the stage!’. This was going to be the largest group of scientists I had ever spoken in front of.  By the end of ISHI 27 I was hooked on the whole experience and going in to ISHI 28 I wanted to make sure I maximized my experience. I submitted for the General Sessions again as well as for chairing a workshop. When Carol Bingham from Promega emailed to see if anyone was interested in moderating a lunch table topic, I volunteered for that too! Also, for the second year DNA Labs International would be an exhibitor.  Thank heavens for the schedule feature in the ISHI app because I was going to be busy!


Written by: Rachel Oefelein, DNA Labs International



Participating as an exhibitor at ISHI is like no other conference that I have been to. In addition to nearly 1,000 attendees that are stopping by the booth there are also all the other vendors that stop by to get updates on what’s new at DNA Labs International as well as sharing what fun new products and technology they have. The booth is always busy with questions about what’s going on with the laboratory, what it’s like to work at a private laboratory and asking our opinion on other talks from throughout the session.  Having a booth to work is great when you are also speaking because it’s an opportunity for other attendees to stop by and ask about talks you have given in the general sessions or at the workshop.  Not everyone feels comfortable asking or submitting a question in the General Sessions but being at the booth gives them a chance to ask their questions and engage in a conversation one on one.  At DNA Labs International, we travel as a team to ISHI. I’ve always been lucky to have had someone from our marketing team and often other analysts by my side to share their opinions as well as offer information on how to contract our laboratory’s services.


Speaking in the general sessions at ISHI is an exhilarating experience; it’s an absolutely huge audience to present your work to!  The subjects for the talks are always diverse and often focus on what’s going on right now in forensics. This year offered lots of information on forensic genealogy which is a hot matter in our field right now.  Everyone loves hearing about interesting cases, which are peppered through the talks as well.  When trying to decide on what to submit for the general sessions at ISHI, I try to think about what I want to hear about as an attendee and to take advantage of the opportunity that I am going to be able to share information with one of the largest, if not the largest, gathering of forensic DNA scientists in the United States that year.  There are always butterflies walking up to the stage and the unknown of what questions will be asked, but at the end of the talk I am already excited and thinking about what I can submit for the next year.


The last two years at ISHI I have chaired a workshop on testimony topics of the year.  DNA Labs International has an extensive testimony training program, and I have attended many other testimony workshops. As an analyst, I am interested to hear more about what I will actually be asked in court.  Once you get over the basics of courtroom testimony; where do I sit, which way do I go when I walk in and the best answers to qualifying questions, you then have to contend with the current testimony topics.  I spend a large amount of time on the stand addressing the same themes of questions in most trials, but these topics are often neglected in routine testimony training. I wanted to create a workshop focused solely on current and emerging testimony topics to give other scientists an idea of what they may get asked on the stand and possible responses to these types of questions.  I invite other scientists and an attorney to present as a panel, so the audience can get a variety of perspectives and opinions.  The workshop has been very interactive, so I have learned from the audience chairing these workshops as well!  This past year I did my second round of moderating a lunch table topic and got the topic of courtroom testimony for that as well! Some of the visitors at the table were going to be attending the testimony workshop and it gave them a chance to ask questions one on one over a whole lunch.  I highly recommend the table topics if you have a subject you want to get more information on, so you get time to speak with other scientists in a smaller setting.



Rachel chairs a workshop on expert witness testimony at ISHI 29 in Phoenix, AZ.


If you have the opportunity to attend ISHI 30 I recommend getting involved as much as possible. There are so many opportunities for attending and submitting to present, from poster presentations, general sessions, moderating and more.  Involving yourself in these occasions can be challenging, fun and an amazing way to get to know more scientists from our field from around the country and around the world. With so many emerging technologies in forensic DNA and it being an anniversary year for ISHI, you know this is going to be a meeting you don’t want to miss!