I am obsessed with CSI (excluding CSI Miami, David Caruso is just too smarmy). I simply can’t help it. I will watch an episode of CSI that I have already seen twice, just for the thrill of seeing the cases unfold. I even downloaded the entire first season of CSI and watched every single episode, back to back, without sleeping. I know that I am not alone. Shows like CSI have swept the nation due partly to its drama, but also to its science. The fact that a single hair, nail or swath of skin could yield a lead on a case is captivating. It is also true.
Granted shows like CSI sensationalize the lab work and results yielded by forensic science, but its basis is accurate. DNA profiling is one of the most valuable tools used by law enforcement and in fact does help to solve cases.
Today there will be a summit held on DNA profiling and its greater ramifications for forensic science as a whole. Hosted by BrightTalk, this summit will be a live, interactive webcast available for the general public. The webcast will feature various speakers, experts in forensic science who will explore topics focused around DNA profiling and its part in forensic science. Listeners are able to hear live audio feed during the presentations and are able to send their questions and comments to the speakers in real time. The speakers can receive them and address them live during their presenations. Materials like PowerPoint slides are also available. The webcast will be recorded and will remain available on-demand.
This opportunity allows for member of the forensic science field or interested parties to learn more about certain facets of DNA profiling and allow a new forum for dialogue and connections. A number of speakers will focus on topics like the increasing value of degraded or probative amounts of DNA evidence to a crime scene, how collections of evidence are done using infrared and ultraviolet light, the usage and value of familial searches in the US and biases among forensic scientists to interpret results.
Dr. Dan Krane, professor at Wright University, will present on familial searches and their potential in the US. Familial searches are organized searches that use the information in the database that might create a close matching profile not with someone in the database, but with a relative of someone in the database who might yield a DNA profile match. “Where familial searches kick in is this,” explains Krane “Let’s say, that the database doesn’t yield any perfect matches, but that there is one individual out of 6 million which looks really similar, maybe 23 out of 26 positions where you can detect a match. That excludes that person as a contributor but it casts a shadow of suspicion on that person’s relatives.” This could lead to investigations of family members and possible suspects to the crime.
Familial searches are already routinely used in countries like the UK but have yet to be facilitated in the US. “What I will be talking about is some algorithms, formulas, that would allow familial searches to be done in a statistically robust way, says Krane, “I will also talk about what sort of statistical weight that should be attached to the perfect DNA profile match.”
Krane sees forensic science advancing by leaps and bounds in the next ten years. According to him, better tests will be conducted, free from tester biases which could yield better results and prevent manipulation of vital evidence. Also developing in the near future is the more exact identifying of DNA from its particular tissue. This information would allow us to “distinguish between a sample that comes from saliva as opposed to sweat as opposed to blood, or brain or liver,” clarifies Krane “That sort of thing is just another 5 or ten years down the line.”
As a whole, this webcast provides a critical forum for experts to come and create a discussion with interested parties and members of the forensic science community, to learn, to share and to generate awareness.
If you would like to participate in the live webcast, check out: