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Just Screening Blood and Urine

In episode five of the 2019 R&D season, Just Science interviews Dr. Rebecca Wagner, a researcher at the Virginia Department of Forensic Sciences in Richmond, about a comparison of two validated LC/MS methods for the quantitative analysis of opioids, cocaine, and cocaine metabolites in biological matrices. 

The state of Virginia is not immune to the current Opioids epidemic. Since 2012, the Virginia DFS has seen a 191% increase in the number of reported opioids results and a 1439% increase in the number of reported fentanyl results for death investigations. With these emerging drug trends on the rise, the DFS is searching for new ways to improve DUI and post-mortem toxicological screening. Listen in as Dr. Wagner discusses confirmation testing, sample conservation, and the development of new analytical methods in this episode of Just Science.  

If you are interested in emerging drug topics, please visit forensicCOE.org to learn more about the upcoming NIJ Policy and Practice Forum being held in DC. The forum will build off the momentum of the widespread stakeholder meetings convened to discuss the drug threats and the consequences of this national epidemic on the public safety and health and the criminal justice response. 

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

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Dr. Rebecca Wagner is employed by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (VDFS) as a Research Analyst. Her duties include method development and validation, monitoring quality assurance/quality control, and technical training in the Toxicology, Controlled Substances, and Trace Evidence Section’s. She has played a pivotal role in the approach Virginia has taken in the estimation of uncertainty for measurements in toxicology and controlled substances. She is an affiliate member of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees and has co-chaired several workshops on uncertainty of measurement and method development for both regional and national forums. She is a member of the Society of Forensic Toxicology and routinely presents her research at the annual meeting. She received her PhD in analytical chemistry from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has been with VDFS since February of 2012.


Additional Resources:

2019 NIJ R&D Symposium Archival

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Just Detecting Gunshot Residue

In episode four of the 2019 R&D season, Just Science interviews Dr. Suzanne Bell, Professor and Chair of the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science at West Virginia University, to discuss a method for consistent single-shot detection of organic and inorganic gunshot residue. 

Smaller crime labs often face a lack of resources and don’t have the funds for the most current equipment used in the detection of gunshot residue. With that in mind, Dr. Bell and her team have created a way to detect GSR using a machine already found in most toxicology departments: a liquid chromatography mass spectrometer. Listen along as she discusses a method for using LC/MS to detect organic and inorganic gunshot residues from the same sample in this episode of Just Science. 

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

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You can also find us on Stitcher or Soundcloud 

 


Dr. Suzanne Bell is a professor and chair of the Department of Forensic and Investigative Sciences at West Virginia University. She served on the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS) from 2014 to 2017. In addition, she has served on the Scientific Working Groups for Seized Drug Analysis and Gunshot Residue, the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission, and the Organization of Scientific Area Committees subcommittee on GSR. She teaches forensic chemistry and toxicology courses and mentors students at the bachelor, master’s, and doctoral level. She has published numerous papers in internationally recognized peer-reviewed journals and is the associate editor for chemistry for the Journal of Forensic Sciences. She collaborates with forensic scientists and practitioners in the United States, Europe, and Brazil and did a sabbatical at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology in 2015. She is the author of two editions of the textbook Forensic Chemistry (Pearson/Prentice Hall), Introduction to Microscopy (CRC Press), and the 4th and 5th editions of the comprehensive introductory text Forensic Science: An Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques (CRC Press). She gives invited lectures and teaches workshops on estimation of uncertainty in forensic science at conferences and for state and local forensic science laboratories. Her current research projects relate to the toxicity of synthetic cannabinoids and new approaches to firearms discharge residue.


Additional Resources:

2019 NIJ R&D Symposium Archival

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Just RNA and Bloodstains

In episode three of the 2019 R&D season, Just Science interviews Dr. Robert Allen, professor and head of the Forensic Sciences Department at Oklahoma State University, about a method to estimate the age of bloodstains using quantitative PCR.

Traditionally, RNA has been used to identify types of cells and to determine if a sample of blood came from two sources. Dr. Allen and his team have found a new use for the single-strand genetic material – estimating the age of dried blood. By studying the ratios of degradation that take place in RNA, they can estimate the age of a blood stain up to three years old. Listen along as our guest discusses his research and RNA’s role in body fluid identification.

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

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Dr. Robert W. Allen is the chair and program director as well as a professor of forensic sciences at the School of Forensic Sciences, Center for Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Tulsa, Oklahoma. His PhD in molecular biology and genetics was awarded in 1977 from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, after which he had a postdoctoral fellowship at the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, California. He has published 82 publications, with 2 more in press and 2 in preparation. He is the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Forensic Investigation.


Additional Resources:

2019 NIJ R&D Symposium Archival

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Just Fundamental Mechanics and Infant Skull Fractures

In episode two of the 2019 R&D season, Just Science interviews Dr. Brittany Coats, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah, about her efforts to use fundamental mechanics to predict infant skull fracture patterns. Over 600,000 children suffer from abuse or neglect each year. The highest percentage of those are less than one year old. After a child suffers an injury, clinicians and investigators often rely on experience to determine if abuse is present, but experience can sometimes be too subjective. Dr. Brittany Coats has spent years researching biomechanics to understand the difference between accidental and abusive trauma, especially in infants. Listen along as she discusses the role of experience in understanding head trauma and her journey to create a computational model to predict how an infant’s skull will fracture in an accident. 

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

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Dr. Brittany Coats is an associate professor and associate chair of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah. She holds affiliated positions in ophthalmology and visual sciences, pediatrics, and bioengineering. Her research focuses on injury mechanics of the brain and eye, with specific interest in understanding microstructural features and properties that lead to better prevention, detection, and treatment strategies for injury in children and adults. She received her PhD in bioengineering at University of Pennsylvania. Her postdoctoral research forged collaborations with neurosurgeons and ophthalmologists at the University of Pennsylvania to investigate the effect of repetitive head trauma on brain and ocular injury. Her current research efforts are supported by grants from the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and National Institute for Justice.


Additional Resources:

2019 NIJ R&D Symposium Archival

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Just Skin Deep

In episode one of the 2019 R&D season, Just Science interviews Dr. Katherine Scafide and Dr. Daniel Sheridan about their use of Alternative Light Sources for the detection and assessment of cutaneous bruising. Until the 1990s, it was commonly believed that clinicians and forensic professionals could estimate a bruise’s age by analyzing its color change. Now, we know that isn’t the case. To fill this gap in knowledge, Dr’s Scafide and Sheridan are working on creating a method for accurately assessing bruises by utilizing different filters to isolate wavelengths of light.  Listen along as they discuss the characteristics of bruising, the factors affecting bruise perception, and their innovative use of paintballs in this episode of Just Science.   

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

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You can also find us on Stitcher or Soundcloud 

 


Dr. Katherine Scafide is an assistant professor at the George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services (view profile here), where she conducts research and mentors doctoral studies. As a forensic nurse, she worked as a pediatric and adult sexual assault nurse examiner for 8 years and was a death investigator for the State of Maryland’s medical examiner’s office (2005–2010). Dr. Scafide’s prior research explored the use of colorimetry in examining the impact of skin color, fat, and sex on changes in bruise color over time. The results were published in leading forensic and medical journals. She is still known as the “paintball lady” for her unique method of creating bruises. Dr. Scafide has also developed and tested a metric for quantifying bruise visibility (Bruise Visibility Scale). Through existing engineering partnerships, she hopes to expand this work using machine learning of digital images. Dr. Scafide’s current research interests involve addressing the disparity in the identification and documentation of injuries among victims of violence, particular those of color, using innovative technologies.

Dr. Daniel Sheridan is a professor at the Texas A&M University College of Nursing, where in 2015, he created its Forensic Nursing Education, Research and Intervention Program. Dr. Sheridan has been a forensic nurse since 1986 and is a former president of the International Association of Forensic Nurses. Dr. Sheridan has created two hospital emergency department–based family violence intervention programs: the first at Chicago’s Rush Medical Center; the second at the Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital in Portland, Oregon. He has extensive clinical experience with patients experiencing intimate partner violence, adult sexual assault, strangulation, and the abuse/neglect of older and vulnerable persons. Dr. Sheridan has performed over 500 forensic sexual assault/intimate partner evidentiary exams, most at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center Forensic Nurse Examiner Program. He used alternate light in his forensic clinical practice for many years. He created and coordinated for 12 years a forensic nursing graduate academic program at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and has chaired and co-chaired numerous violence/injury-related dissertations and thesis capstone projects. His research interests include use of alternate light to improve bruise assessments; identification of topical products that could give false positive results mimicking bruises; identification of women at risk of intimate partner homicide; primary prevention of violence with school-aged children; and increased identification of abuse/ neglect of older and vulnerable persons.

 

 


Additional Resources:

2019 NIJ R&D Symposium Archival

George Mason University Nursing

Forensic Nursing: Finding the Best Ways to Assess Bruises Video