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FBI's Top Scientist Visits Bond

Bond University had the privilege of hosting the FBI’s top Scientist, Dr Bruce Budowle, from the United States recently.

Dr Budowle visited Bond from June 23 – July 4 as a Visiting Research Fellow with the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine.

With over 25 years experience working in the FBI, Dr. Budowle’s work laid the foundations for the current human identification DNA typing and has been instrumental in developing quality assurance standards for the forensic DNA field.

He was an advisor to New York State in the effort to identify the victims from the World Trade Centre attack and worked on the FBI’s Anthrax investigation.

Some of his more recent efforts are in counter terrorism and his current focus lies with bioterrorism threats and microbial forensics.

During his visit, Dr Budowle delivered a public seminar at the University’s Cerum theatre, attracting around 200 guests for his speech on “Forensic DNA Identification: Victims, Missing Persons and Perpetrators".

He also spent much of his time working closely with Bond University Professor of Forensic Science, Dr Angela van Daal.

Dr van Daal has been working with Dr Budowle and colleagues at the University of North Texas on developing a cutting-edge new form of genetic profiling which could eventually allow forensic scientists to create an image of a suspect - similar to a police Comfit - from a single sample of DNA.

"We're trying to decode the information in DNA so that when a crime occurs we are able to provide what is akin to an eye witness description of the person," Dr van Daal said.

"So we are looking at developing some of the genetic markers which are the basis of what we look like.

“At the moment, forensic investigators need a suspect in hand to match any DNA evidence they have. This further development of genetic research will allow them to take that DNA sample and develop a reasonably detailed identikit of the suspected perpetrator.

“Whilst it won’t be as exact as a photo, they will be able to determine height, skin colour, hair colour and general facial features, even when there are no eye witnesses to help.”

But Dr van Daal says there is still some way to go.

"While we have some information about eye, skin and hair colouring, we don't yet have much information about what determines the height of a person or what determines the facial features or the shape of a person," Dr van Daal said.

"Those are still to be decoded and will take some time to do.

Dr van Daal predicts the technology could be in use by forensic investigators “sometime in the next five years, maybe even in two to three years."

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