Just Embracing Imperfection in Forensic Science

Just Embracing Imperfection in Forensic Science

Original Release Date: June 23, 2023

In episode 3 of our Resilient Leadership mini season, Just Science sat down with Jody Wolf, Crime Lab Administrator for the Phoenix Police Department; Tim Scanlan, President of Forensic Analysis, Consulting, and Training, LLC; and Mikalaa Martin, Forensic Scientist at RTI International to highlight the impact of human factors on forensic DNA interpretation. 

Human factors research is a discipline that examines concepts like undue influence, employee wellness, and human error, which impact the decisions that forensic science practitioners make on a daily basis. The National Institute of Standards and Technology / National Institute of Justice Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Forensic DNA Interpretation is dedicated to exploring a systems-based approach for addressing human factors, where employees can embrace and learn from their mistakes. Listen along as Jody, Tim, and Mikalaa describe the human factors that commonly affect forensic DNA interpretation, the importance of creating a positive error working culture, and how leaders can cultivate an environment of trust and accountability. 

This episode is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (Award No. 15PNIJ-21-GK-02192-MUMU). 

Some content in this podcast may be considered sensitive and may evoke emotional responses, or may not be appropriate for younger audiences. 

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Episode Citation

Swanholm, B., Wolf, J., Scanlan, T., & Martin, M. (2023, June 23). Just Science. Just Embracing Imperfection in Forensic Science. [Audio podcast episode]. The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence.

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Guest Biography

Jody Wolf is the Crime Lab Administrator for the Phoenix Police Department, Laboratory Services Bureau, an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory that employs over 150 technical and support personnel, which provides forensic services to the fifth largest City in the United States with a population of over 1.6 million residents. Over her career, she has worked in both public and private laboratories and has been employed by the Phoenix Police Department Crime Laboratory for the past 22 years. She is an active member of several professional organizations and has been actively involved in the criminal justice community.  She currently serves as the Chair of the Arizona Forensic Science Academy Board and the Chair of the National Forensic Science Academy. She also serves as the Secretariat to the United States Technical Advisory Group to ISO Technical Committee 272 on Forensic Science and is a member of the Strategic Advisory Board to the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence. She has held many leadership positions within the forensic community including the President of the International Forensic Strategic Alliance (IFSA) and the President for the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD). Jody received a Bachelor of Science degree in both Biology and Chemistry from Regis University in Denver, Colorado and a Master of Science degree in Chemistry from Arizona State University. She also received a Master in Business Administration degree with an emphasis in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix. 

Dr. Timothy Scanlan is the President of Forensic Analysis, Consulting, and Training, LLC.  He has over twenty-two years of law enforcement experience and retired as a Deputy Chief, commanding the Technical Services Bureau for a major law enforcement agency. In that role, he supervised a multidisciplinary accredited crime laboratory, digital forensics unit, crime scene division, as well as other support elements, including the 911 Division. He is a court qualified expert in firearm and tool mark examination, bloodstain pattern analysis, crime scene reconstruction, and crime scene processing and analysis. He has testified in numerous criminal trials at both the state and federal levels. Additionally, Dr. Scanlan is the Director of the Forensic Science Minor Program at Loyola University of New Orleans and served as an adjunct professor within Florida International University's Professional Science Master in Forensic Science degree program. Timothy Scanlan is a former member of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Board of Directors (ASCLD) and has taught Leadership Communication for the ASCLD Leadership Academy, since its inception in 2014. He currently is a member of the National Forensic Science Academy Board of Directors. Timothy Scanlan obtained a Master of Science degree in Forensic Science from Florida International University, where his graduate research focused on the corrosive effect of blood on projectiles. He presented the results of this extensive study at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ Fifty-seventh meeting and at the International Forensic Science Symposium in Taipei, Taiwan. Timothy Scanlan obtained his doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University with a specialization in Homeland Security Policy and Coordination. His dissertation was entitled “Influences of CSI Effect, Daubert Ruling, and NAS Report on Forensic Science Practices”. 

Mikalaa Martin is a Forensic Scientist at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute headquartered in Research Triangle Park, NC dedicated to improving the human condition through delivering the promise of science for global good. As a Forensic Scientist at RTI International, Mrs. Martin supports a variety of multidisciplinary forensic science research projects under the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence and the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative along with various initiatives funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Since 2021, Mrs. Martin has served as a Steering Committee Member for the NIST/NIJ Expert Working Group on Human Factors in DNA Interpretation. Mrs. Martin began her professional forensic science career as a Forensic Evidence Technician with the Greenville County Department of Public Safety, Forensic Division, Crime Scene Section in Greenville, SC where she provided crime scene investigation for crimes against persons and property and in-house processing of collected evidentiary items. Mrs. Martin received her Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic and Investigative Science with emphasis in Forensic Examination and Forensic Biology from West Virginia University located in Morgantown, WV. During her undergraduate career, Mrs. Martin completed collegiate internships at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston, TX and the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office in Morgantown, WV. Mrs. Martin’s undergraduate research consisted of the use of the FARO FocusS 3D Laser Scanner and associated SCENE 3D Point Cloud Software for use in crime scene investigation and scene documentation and an evaluation study on the use of blind quality control samples in the discipline of latent fingerprints. 

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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