Forensic Technology Center of Excellence

Biology & DNA

All of our webinars, reports, podcast episodes, and other educational resources are available to the public at no cost.

Funding for the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence has been provided by the National Institute of Justice.

To filter, simply click on the topics below.

test tubes and icons

Virtual Workshop: A Discussion on Research and a Multidisciplinary Response to Sexual Assault

Overview The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) will be delivering a two-day Virtual Workshop: A Discussion on Research and a Multidisciplinary Response to Sexual Assault on January 26-27, 2022.  The Virtual Workshop: A Discussion…
bug & DNA

Molecular Identification of Insects Relevant to Medicolegal Casework

This webinar originally occurred on December 2nd, 2021 Duration: 1 hour Accurate insect identification is critical to their use in estimation of time of colonization (TOC) and post-mortem interval (PMI) during medicolegal death investigations. Insect specimens are currently identified by…
US and forensic science disciplines

2021 Forensic Science Research Federal Stakeholders Public Meeting

Overview The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE), held a Forensic Science Research Federal Stakeholders meeting on November 8, 2021 from 9:00AM…

National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach Mobile App

Go MOBILE for FREE with the National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits App! Get the app here or search for “National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits” on the Google Play Store. Google Play and the Google Play logo…
latent print and DNA

DNA recovery after sequential processing of latent fingerprints on copy paper

Publication Journal of Forensic Sciences, September 2021 Authors Abigail S. Bathrick, M.F.S. | Bode Technology, Lorton, VA Sarah Norsworthy, M.S. | Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, RTI International, Durham, NC Dane T. Plaza, B.S. | Bode Technology, Lorton, VA Mallory…
DNA and person silhouette

FLN-TWG: Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) for DNA Analysis

Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG) The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) at RTI International, formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG). The FLN-TWG supports NIJ’s mission…
question marks and silhouettes

2021 National Forensic Science Week Practitioner Interviews

← Back to Main Page Overview The FTCoE has conducted a variety of written interviews with forensic professionals in various stages of their careers. From recent graduates to retired professionals, the FTCoE showcases real-world perspectives on the current state of…

2021 National Forensic Science Week FTCoE Student Research Poster Session

Overview  As fall semesters are getting back into session and in honor of the upcoming National Forensic Science Week (September 19-25, 2021), the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) would like to highlight student research in the forensic sciences! The…
microphone and headphones

Just a Cost Benefit Analysis of Sexual Assault Investigation

Original Release Date: August 6, 2021 In episode four of our Research and Considerations for Sexual Assault Cases season, Just Science sat down with Dr. Rachel Lovell, Research Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University, and Mary Weston, Assistant Prosecuting…
microphone and headphones

Just Trauma-Informed Victim-centered Interviewing

In episode three of our Research and Considerations for Sexual Assault Cases season, Just Science sat down with Natasha Alexenko, Jordan Satinsky, and Marya Simmons to discuss trauma informed, victim-centered interviewing for sexual assault cases.    A sexual assault victim’s experiences with law enforcement and advocates…

Evidence Collection and Analysis for Touch Deoxyribonucleic Acid in Groping and Sexual Assault Cases

Report Publication Journal of Forensic Nursing, April 2021 Introduction Historically, evidence collection in sexual assault cases focused on obtaining foreign contributor bodily fluids through swab collection. With improvements in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis methods, DNA profiles can be developed from touch…
DNA strands

Perspectives on Addressing the Collection, Tracking, and Processing of Lawfully Owed DNA Samples

Report Date April 2021 Introduction The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is a powerful tool that supports the criminal justice system by generating investigative leads, identifying perpetrators, and linking cases together. DNA profiles obtained from…

Introduction to Touch DNA Evidence for Sexual Assault Groping Cases Video Series

Overview: The Importance of Touch DNA Evidence in Sexual Assault Groping Cases video series is presented by Dr. Julie Valentine and Heather Mills as a companion to the Journal of Forensic Nursing article entitled “Evidence Collection and Analysis for Touch…
fluid

FLN-TWG: Proteomic Mass Spectrometry for Biology Fluid Identification

Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG) The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) at RTI International, formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG). The FLN-TWG supports NIJ’s mission…
constellations over glass lab equipment

Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG)

Supporting NIJ’s Mission to Improve Knowledge and Understanding The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) at RTI International, formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG). The FLN-TWG supports NIJ’s…

Stability and Persistence of Touch DNA for Forensic Analysis

Touch DNA evidence (i.e. the low quantities of DNA that can be left behind when someone touches an object) is of increasing importance in criminal investigations. However, many important questions exist regarding basic properties of touch DNA, including the expected…
a digital strand of DNA

An Automated Single Cell Separation Technique to Improve Mixture Deconvolution

This webinar originally occurred on Thursday, November 12th, 2020 Duration: 1 hour Although the interpretation of mixed DNA samples is commonplace in forensic analyses, complex samples often present interpretational challenges. These complexities are introduced through a variety of environmental, biological,…
DNA strands in green

Success Story: Advancing Mixture Interpretation Analysis with NOCIt

National Institute of Justice and Rutgers University Date September 2020 Overview DNA samples recovered from crime scenes often contain at least two contributors. Complex forensic DNA mixture interpretation can be challenging and requires computational advancements that support its use. Using…
microphone and headphones

Just Forensic Genetic Genealogy and GEDmatch:  Verogen’s Approach

In this Forensic Science Week special episode, Just Science interviews Brett Williams, the CEO of Verogen, about the GEDmatch database, how it can be used by law enforcement to perform forensic genealogy searches for investigative leads, and the short- and long-term plans Verogen has for…
image of DNA

PACE™: Rapid and Automated Artifact Identification and Number of Contributor Prediction

– Tuesday, July 28th, 2020 1:00:00 PM ET – 2:00:00 PM ETDuration: 1 hour(s) The PACE™ software introduces a fully continuous, machine learning tool to the forensic DNA community that enables fast and accurate artifact management and predicts the number…
virtual depiction of DNA strands on computer screen

Validation and Tutorial of NOCIt for Determining the Number of Contributors

– Tuesday, July 14th, 2020 1:00:00 PM ET – 2:00:00 PM ET Duration: 1 hour(s) Forensic DNA signal is notoriously challenging to interpret and requires the implementation of computational tools that support its interpretation. While data from high-copy, low-contributor samples…

2019 National Institute of Justice Forensic Science Research and Development Symposium

This report was published in RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications on a broad range of topics. The areas of focus reflect RTI’s multidisciplinary research, our expertise in social and laboratory sciences, and our extensive international activities. Since…
eye dropper filling glass test tubes

The Time to Analyze is Now: DNA Evidence in Groping Sexual Assault Cases

This webinar originally occurred on Wednesday, January 29th, 2020 Duration: 1.5 hour(s) This webinar built on the concepts presented in the webinar “The Time to Collect is Now: DNA Evidence in Groping Sexual Assault Cases” presented by Dr. Julie Valentine.…

DNA Backlog Reduction Strategy: Law Enforcement Agency Partnerships for a Successful Biological Screening Laboratory

NIJ’s FTCoE, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department, and Boca Raton Police Services Department   Report Date November 2019 Introduction Implementing DNA technology in crime laboratories has led to the intensification of backlogged cases and a concomitant pressure to implement backlog…
virtual depiction of DNA strands

ASCLD Train the Director – Investigative Genetic Genealogy: Background and Crime Lab Strategy

This webinar originally occurred on January 23rd, 2020 Duration: 1.5 hours Investigative Genetic Genealogy is a recently developed technique that generates new leads on previously unsolved cases where DNA from the suspect is present at the crime scene. In situations…

Online Workshop Series: Probabilistic Genotyping Of Evidentiary DNA Typing Results

Overview The Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory has partnered with the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence to create a series of online workshops aimed at increasing knowledge, understanding, and the reliable application of probabilistic genotyping to…

Success Story: Enabling Forensic Field Testing with Paper Microfluidic Devices

National Institute of Justice and Florida International University Date April 2019 Overview Forensic investigators, law enforcement, and military personnel are often placed in potentially dangerous situations when they come across suspected drugs, explosives, and bodily fluids while in the field.…

Success Story: Improving DNA Mixture Interpretation with the Help of Machine Learning

National Institute of Justice and Syracuse University Date March 2019 Overview When DNA is recovered from a crime scene, victim, or suspect, it may be a mixture of genetic information from multiple individuals. To successfully interpret a mixture of DNA,…

The Time to Collect is Now: DNA Evidence in Groping Sexual Assault Cases

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 2:00 PM ET – 3:30 PM ET Duration: 1.5 hour(s) Improving the overall response to sexual assault includes understanding how touch DNA evidence impacts groping sexual assault cases. This webinar will illustrate the importance of these…

In-Brief Report Series: Beyond DNA – Sexual Assault Investigations

Report Series Date January 2019 Introduction The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is committed in their efforts to support scientific advancement, evidence-based practices, and community awareness of our Nation’s sexual assault response. As NIJ’s Director, Dr. David B. Muhlhausen, indicated,…

Success Story: Uncovering Key Details of Skeletal Remains through 3D-ID Software

National Institute of Justice and North Carolina State University Date January 2019 Overview When forensic anthropologists investigate unidentified remains, they look for important clues that can help identify the subject. For example, the size and shape of the skull can…

Process and Outcome Evaluation of Forensic DNA Unit Efficiency Improvement Program

Technical Note Date November 2018 Description A 2009 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Forensic DNA Unit Efficiency Improvement (EIP) Program solicitation provided crime laboratories’ DNA testing services with a funding opportunity to meet the increasingly numerous requests from the criminal…

A Landscape Study of SOPs to Collect and Process Arrestee and Convicted Offender DNA Samples

Report Date This study is currently being conducted. The project team presented a poster on preliminary findings and next steps at the International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI) in Phoenix, Arizona on September 24-27, 2018. Description The Forensic Technology Center…

Advancing Research Initiatives and Combatting the Human Trafficking Epidemic

Thursday, November 1, 2018 1:00 PM ET – 2:00 PM ET Duration: 1 hour(s) Trafficking in persons is a multi-faceted global epidemic which has seen a significant increase in public awareness. However, there is a substantial need to expand capacities…

Estimating Blow Fly Age and Reducing Error in Postmortem Interval Cases

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 2:00:00 PM ET – 4:00:00 PM ET Duration: 2 hour(s) Insect evidence can provide valuable information during death investigations. Forensic entomologists estimate the ages of the immature insects like blow flies, which can provide useful information…

New SWGDAM Recommendations on Communicating Likelihood Ratios

Thursday, October 18, 2018 1:00:00 PM ET – 3:00:00 PM ET Duration: 2 hour(s) SWGDAM recently issued recommendations on genotyping results reported as likelihood ratios, designed to promote consistency among laboratories. Members of the committee will discuss the recommendations and…

Mixtures, Microhaps, and Modeling, Oh My!! Cutting-Edge Research in Forensic DNA Analysis from Early-Career Scientists

Tuesday, September 18, 2018 10:00:00 AM ET – 11:30:00 AM ET Duration: 1.5 hour(s) During National Forensic Science Week, early-career researchers that were awarded FTCoE travel sponsorships to the prestigious Gordon Research Conference and Seminar will present novel projects in…

Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center Webinar Series

Overview The Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center (HHRRC) of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) with support from the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence provides needed resources and support to apply modern forensic science…

Conference Proceedings: 2018 Research and Development Symposium

This report was published in RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications on a broad range of topics. The areas of focus reflect RTI’s multidisciplinary research, our expertise in social and laboratory sciences, and our extensive international activities. Since…

Success Story: Establishing a “Microbial Clock” to Improve Time of Death Prediction

National Institute of Justice and Multi-Institute Academic Team Date April 2018 Overview The postmortem interval (PMI) is the time that has elapsed since a person’s death. Determining the PMI at a crime scene may help to recreate the victim’s timeline…

Success Story: Maximizing the Use of Mitochondrial DNA in Identifying Remains and Aiding Missing Persons Casework

National Institute of Justice and the American Registry of Pathology Date April 2018 Overview Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) serves as an important tool in situations where traditional nuclear DNA analysis is unlikely to yield probative information. mtDNA sequencing has traditionally focused…

Success Story: NIST’s Dogs and Sensor Subcommittee Builds on Achievements by SWGDOG

National Institute of Justice and Florida International University Date April 2018 Overview Dog “detector teams” support law enforcement and first responders in a variety of applications ranging from drug and contraband interdiction to locating human remains. Dogs offer a useful…

Evaluating the Use of DNA Analysis for Family Reunification

This webinar originally occurred on March 14th, 2018 Duration: 1 hour DNA analysis allows for testing relationships (kinship) between two individuals in situations that vary from legal immigration to claimed parentage testing. This webinar focuses on the applicability of DNA…

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Kinship Testing Involving Siblings

This webinar originally occurred in 2018 Duration: 1 hour This webinar aims to improve the knowledge on kinship testing involving siblings and provides a cost-benefit analysis of practices involving the use of additional reference siblings and substitution of half-siblings for…
DNA strand

Success Story: Forensic Epigenetics – Markers for the Identification of Body Fluids

National Institute of Justice and Florida International University Date February 2018 Overview  The identification of body fluids recovered from crime scenes can provide valuable information to further aid investigations. The biological origin of body fluids can facilitate the identification of…

Predict Human Appearance From DNA Focusing On Pigmentation

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 10:00:00 AM EDT – 12:00:00 PM EDT Duration: 2 hour(s) Principles, methods and applications of DNA-based prediction of human appearance traits for forensic and anthropological use with specific insights into eye, hair, and skin colour prediction…

Familial DNA: A series of reports released by the National Institute of Justice [2017]

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published several reports related to Familial DNA in August 2017. The topics of these reports include Studies of Familial DNA Searching Policies and Practices-Case Studies, Studies of Familial DNA Searching Policies and Practices – National…

2016 National Institute of Justice Forensic Science Research and Development Symposium

This report was published in RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications on a broad range of topics. The areas of focus reflect RTI’s multidisciplinary research, our expertise in social and laboratory sciences, and our extensive international activities. Since…

ASCLD Webinar Series: DNA Standards and Guidelines Part 1

This webinar was targeted to DNA Supervisors, DNA Technical Leaders, Quality Mangers, and DNA Analysts. There was also a question and answer period after the presentation. Forensic DNA Analysis, and in particular interpreting complex DNA mixtures and calculating statistics, can…

2015 TechBeat Articles Featuring the FTCoE

Gunshot Residue Analysis Featured in New ftcoe Report Series Issue: Sep/Oct 2015 Pages: 3-8 Click here to read the article Familial DNA Project: Engaging Stakeholders, Sharing Opinions Issue: May/Jun 2015 Pages: 13-14 Click here to read the article Cutting-Edge Vacuum Technology: Locates hard to find…

In-Brief: Applying Internal Validation Guidelines for Expanded STR Loci Kits

Report Date January 2017 Report Summary The familiar ‘13 Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) core loci’ expanded to ‘20 CODIS core loci’ as mandated by the FBI on January 1, 2017. Because of this FBI mandate, participating CODIS laboratories will need…

A Guidance Document on the Forensic Application of Massively Parallel Sequencing

Report Date December 2016 Purpose This report describes the fundamentals of massively parallel sequencing (MPS) for the application to forensic analysis. Also included within this report is a comprehensive summary of the webinar series which discussed the strength of the technology…

Genome ID Forum 2014 – The Critical Role of SNPs in the Future of Forensics

Originally presented at the 2014 Genome ID Forum, this presentation appraises the potential value of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) as applied to forensic analysis, including ancestry inference, phenotypic inference and individual identification. The discussion focuses strongly on the relevance of…

Genome ID Forum 2014 – Proteomics: Multiplex Assay to Identify Biological Stains

Originally presented at the 2014 Genome ID Forum, this archived presentation discusses the development and validation of a rapid multiplex assay for the identification of biological stains using comparative proteomics. Current serological techniques, although historically utilized and relied upon heavily…

Genome ID Forum 2014 – Legal Perspective on the Adoption of Advanced Technologies

Originally presented at the 2014 Genome ID Forum, Ted Hunt, chief trial attorney in the prosecuting attorney’s office in Kansas City, Missouri, brings a fresh legal perspective to addressing the adoption of advanced DNA analysis technologies for forensic crime laboratories. In…

Genome ID Forum 2014 – HD SNP Array for Forensic Casework

Originally presented at the 2014 Genome ID Forum, Dr. Sandra Close presents her latest research, the application of high density SNP array technology applied to forensic casework. Dr. Close presents an overview of the platform, including chemistry, assay and interpretation,…

Familial DNA Searching: Current Approaches – Part IV

This four-part panel discussion series will elucidate the current landscape of policies and procedures addressing familial DNA searching. Part IV In this particular session, the discussion focused around current technical protocols including software considerations, candidate thresholds derived by likelihood ratio…

Familial DNA Searching: Current Approaches – Part III

This four-part panel discussion series will elucidate the current landscape of policies and procedures addressing familial DNA searching. Part III In this particular session, the discussion focused around the process of investigative follow up from these leads including costs and…

Familial DNA Searching: Current Approaches – Part II

This four-part panel discussion series will elucidate the current landscape of policies and procedures addressing familial DNA searching. Part II In this particular session, the discussion topic was focused around current existing protocols and specifically address questions such as: what…

Familial DNA Searching: Current Approaches – Part I

This four-part panel discussion series will elucidate the current landscape of policies and procedures addressing familial DNA searching. Part I These discussions were used to generate a report designed to educate legal professionals, policy makers, law enforcement and forensic laboratory…

Genome ID Forum 2014 – Emerging Technologies for Human Remains Identification

Originally presented at the 2014 Genome ID Forum, an overview of the Laboratory’s new Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) instrumentation and protocol development is discussed including experimental design utilizing multiple forensic markers and the impact on sample processing. Funding for this…

ASCLD Webinar Series: FBI Allele Frequency – Managers & Legal Overview

Crime Laboratories have earned a position of public trust over time through providing reliable quality results. Keeping public trust includes being self-correcting once an issue is discovered. The Federal Bureau of Investigation allele frequency amendments is an opportunity to demonstrate…

ASCLD Webinar Series: FBI Allele Frequency Amendments – Technical Discussion

Crime Laboratories have earned a position of public trust over time through providing reliable quality results. Keeping public trust includes being self-correcting once an issue is discovered. The Federal Bureau of Investigation allele frequency amendments is an opportunity to demonstrate…

Genome ID Forum 2014 – Applications of Emerging Technologies NIST

Originally presented at the 2014 Genome ID Forum, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) SRMs includes the PCR based DNA profiling standard which covers 51 autosomal and 17 Y chromosome markers, mitochondrial DNA sequencing standards and the human…

A Landscape Study of DNA Mixture Interpretation Software

Report Date October 2015 Purpose Practical applications and implementation strategies for adoption of a DNA mixture interpretation software tool to assist with the challenges of complex mixture interpretation and statistical analysis. Report Summary Due to the influx of complex mixture…

2014 TechBeat Articles Featuring the FTCoE

Short Tandem Repeat Study Released Issue: Nov/Dec 2014 Page: 27 Click here to read the article Magneto-Optical technology shows promise in “Unerasing” Serial Numbers Issue: Sep/Oct 2014 Pages: 21-24 Click here to read the article Report Provides Insight Into Mobile ID Fingerprint Technology Issue: Jul/Aug 2014…
skeletons

Success Story: Creating an International Databank of Skeletal Biomarkers for Human Identification

National Institute of Justice and University of South Florida Date September 2016 Overview According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Missing Person and Unidentified Person Files, there are approximately 13,500 unidentified individual cases in…
mitochondria and DNA strands

Success Story: Customizing NextGENe Software for Forensic Applications

National Institute of Justice and CHORI – Collaboration with SoftGenetics® and California Department of Justice Date April 2016 Overview Degraded and mixed DNA samples are often encountered in forensic cases and pose interpretation challenges. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers are ideal targets…
DNA strand gloved hand with tube

Success Story: Addressing a Key Challenge for PCR-Based Forensic Tests

National Institute of Justice and DNA Polymerase Technologies Date April 2016 Overview Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) inhibitors are present in blood, soil, and reagents, and represent a key challenge for PCR-based forensic tests, resulting in false negatives and poor sensitivity…
DNA strands with barrier tape

Success Story: Introducing New Methods for DNA Analysis

National Institute of Justice and Midwest Research Institute Date April 2015 Overview Dr. Micah Halpern, formerly of Midwest Research Institute, used National Institute of Justice (NIJ) research grants to develop a unique genotyping method that is capable of rapidly producing…
sam quinones headshot

Success Story: Understanding the Ecology of Human Decomposition Methods for Estimating Postmortem Interval

National Institute of Justice and the National Museum of Health and Medicine Date April 2015 Overview Data on the microbiome of decomposing and skeletonized remains are providing an avenue for understanding how microbial communities may be used to augment medicolegal…
outline of man with skulls and blue lines

Success Story: Improving Identification of Mexican Hispanic Remains

National Institute of Justice and Texas State University Report Date April 2015 Overview In the United States, the Mexican Hispanic population ranks second in total size, yet Mexican Hispanic individuals often remain unidentified in forensic anthropological cases. The reason? There…
DNA strand in magnifying glass and handcuffed hands

Success Story: Bringing Short Tandem Repeat DNA Identification to Law Enforcement

National Institute of Justice, UC Berkeley, and IntegenX Date April 2015 Overview Dr. Richard Mathies, chemist and professor at UC, Berkeley, was awarded NIJ funding to develop faster, more reliable, higher throughput, more sensitive, and more integrated technologies for forensic…