Game Changing Technology:

Isotope Analysis

Over the past decade, the use of stable isotope analysis has become an increasingly important part of forensic casework. It has been applied to unidentified human remains cases from local jurisdictions, past wars and conflicts, victims of genocide, and undocumented border crossers.

These applications have been successful due to the recent development of baseline water and geological ‘isoscape’ maps for various regions, as well as defining regional and cultural variation in human diets. Collaborations between forensic anthropologists and analytical chemists have provided new opportunities to develop and test new methods by evaluating samples of known origin.
Learn more about Isotope Analysis
Isotopes Aiding Identification of Undocumented Border Crosser Human Remains

While the US-Mexico border is a much-discussed topic, the fate of the undocumented border crossers who do not survive the journey through this rough terrain is rarely the subject of conversation. This webinar highlights the theory and methods of isotopic analysis to explain how it can be used to assist in the identification of human remains for undocumented border crossers. Learn more in this archived webinar.
Stable Isotope Analysis in a Humanitarian Context

This webinar introduced stable isotope analysis and its validity as an analytical tool in establishing the geographic origin and life history of unidentified individuals from forensic and humanitarian contexts. In such cases where comparison with missing persons reports and DNA is not feasible – or even possible – the use of stable isotope analysis is a viable option for determining provenance and has been used successfully in a number of forensic cases to determine regional origins. Check out this archived webinar to learn more.
Diversity and Inclusion in Forensics
Roger A. Mitchell Jr. MD
Chief Medical Examiner - Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
Associate Professor of Surgery at Howard University

Clinical Professor of Pathology at The George Washington University
Can you tell us a little bit about your career path in forensics? How did you end up in the role that you currently occupy? 

I started my career in forensic science in 1997 as a forensic biologist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  While at the FBI, I got exposed to the medical examiner as a profession.  Because of that exposure, I left the FBI and went to medical school at NJ Medical School.  I did my pathology residency at GW Hospital where I ended as Chief Resident.  I trained at NYC OCME for forensic pathology and then served in Houston, TX at the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office as the Assistant Deputy Chief ME in charge of Death Investigations.  From 2011-2014 in served as the Assistant State Medical Examiner In-Charge for the State of NJ.  From 2014-present I have served as Chief Medical Examiner for Washington, D.C. 

In your experience, how have diversity and inclusion played a part in your occupation? 

Affirmative Action was in place both when I applied to the FBI and to medical school.  Although qualified, I also benefited from programs to increase African Americans in these institutions.  Since medical school, I have personally worked to mentor and recruit African Americans into forensic science and medicine.
Can you talk about a time in the workplace where you noticed the benefit of diversity in a situation? Or where the situation would have benefited from more diverse thinking?  

Diversity in the workplace is very important.  Whether the it is in the form of race, gender, or where a physician trained, diversity allows for a better exchange of ideas.  If diversity is truly free to operate, it will challenge bias by centering different thoughts, ideas, and experiences than expressed by the majority culture.
Have your lived experiences shaped your approach to inclusivity in the field in any way?   

My racial history is diverse and steeped in the traditions of the Lenne Lenapi indigenous people, both free and enslaved Africans, the Dutch, and the European Jew.  In America, I am seen and labeled as a Black man. All of my lived experience (not just my racial designation) shapes most everything.
Are there any stories you would like to share of a time you directly saw the benefit of diversity or inclusion in forensics? 

I am not sure that I can pinpoint a particular time.  Because I am the leader of a very diverse group of forensic pathologists, I see the benefit daily.

Just Hairy Isotopes


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