Just the Components of Forensic Biology and DNA

Just the Components of Forensic Biology and DNA

Original Release Date: June 3, 2022

In episode five of our Strengthening the Forensic Workforce season, Just Science sat down with Dr. Robin Cotton, Director of the Master of Science Program in Biomedical Forensic Sciences at Boston University School of Medicine, and Dr. Daniele Podini, a professor in the Department of Forensic Sciences at the George Washington University, to discuss Forensic Biology and DNA.

Forensic biology can be described as the application of biochemistry and cellular biology to solve forensic problems. These techniques have evolved over the years with increasing sensitivity, are routinely used to identify individuals through DNA, and provide information on biological materials present at a crime scene. Listen along as Dr. Cotton and Dr. Podini discuss their interesting career journeys, the importance of criminal law and ethics training, and the value of student research involving statistical analysis and interpretation.

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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Guest Biography

Professor Daniele Podini, Ph.D. received his BS/MS in Biology/Molecular Biology from the University of Parma, Italy completed his graduate education in Applied Genetics at the University “La Sapienza” in Rome Italy. Prof. Podini served as the Assistant Chief of the Biology Section of the Scientific Department of the Carabinieri (1998-2000), and as Technical Leader of the Molecular Diagnostic section of Genoma, Rome (2000-2004).  Prof. Podini has been on the faculty of the Department of Forensic Sciences at GW since 2004. His research focuses on applied molecular biology, developing new strategies to increase the efficiency and significance of the information that can be obtained with the most recent molecular biology techniques. Specifically the research conducted in his lab ranges from developing microhaplotype assays for human identification, mixture deconvolution and biogeographic ancestry prediction, to working on high throughput detection of sperm cells from sexual assault evidence. 

Dr. Robin W. Cotton has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of California at Irvine in 1980. Prior to joining Cellmark in 1988, she did post-doctoral research at the University of Iowa and at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Cotton’s experience in the forensic application of DNA analysis began at Cellmark Diagnostics in Germantown, MD in 1988. She subsequently served as Laboratory Director and Technical leader of the Cellmark Laboratory from 1994 to 2005. Cellmark was one of the first DNA testing laboratories in the US. As Director and Technical Leader, Dr. Cotton was responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of new technology as well participating in technical review of forensic casework results and providing testimony in admissibility hearings and trials. She has testified as an expert in DNA analysis in over 250 criminal cases in 35 states. In October of 2006, Dr. Cotton joined the faculty at the Boston University School of Medicine where she is the Director of the M.S. Program in Biomedical Forensic Sciences which is a FEPAC accredited program. She teaches courses in Forensic DNA Analysis and Advanced DNA Analysis and conducts research on methods for improving or developing new DNA extraction methods and other procedures for use with low template DNA samples. Dr. Cotton was appointed by the Governor to serve as a member of the Forensic Science Oversight Board for the State of Massachusetts. 

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast episode are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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