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Biology Day 2017

This presentation was first given to the Rutgers-Camden Q-STEP students in 2011 and was updated for the 2017 Biology Day. It provides a basic introduction to how biology & forensic science intersect.

Kimberlee Sue Moran

on 14 September 2017

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Transcript of Biology Day 2017

More than DNA:
how biology interfaces with forensic science

Forensic science is the application of science to the law,
criminal investigations.
Questions of investigation: who, what, where, when, why, how
“Forensic” – related to the court of law
What do forensic scientists do?
Who can be a forensic scientist?
Death & Decomposition
Environmental Profiling
Human Identification
Trace Evidence
A forensic scientist is anyone who can aid the police when conducting a criminal investigation
Some forensic scientists are multi-skilled.
Some forensic scientists are specialists in specific fields.
Universally: forensic scientists answer specific questions and provide expert testimony
More than DNA!!
Crime Scene Examination (evidence collection) or a specialist subject
They do not solve the crime
They are not in charge of the case or the crime scene
They don’t decide who is guilty
Sorry, it’s not CSI
Forensic science skill set
Solid background in a science
Attention to detail
Ability to work repetitively & methodically
Knowledge of police procedures, protocols, and paperwork
Clear, concise writing
Public speaking
Honesty & integrity
Organic material
“Death is caused by irreversible cardiac arrest or brain stem death”
Two types -
Somatic death - person no longer functions as a unit of society
Cellular death - cessation of respiration and metabolism followed by decay
Decomposition -
A natural process
The breakdown of complex molecules into simpler compounds
Nature’s version of recycling
Human Decomposition
Autolysis -
breakdown by the body’s own enzymes
starts with lysosomes
Putrefaction -
breakdown by bacteria that lives inside the body
- anaerobic bacteria
- aerobic bacteria
Decomposition is not constant
Bioactivity (bugs and scavenger)
Buried or left on surface
Contents of stomach
Age and health of corpse
Can be stopped by mummification (natural & man-made)
Postmortem Interval (PMI)
Rate of decomposition and changes in a corpse
used to determine time of death
affected by many variables
Minutes after death – eyes become dull
2-6hrs – rigor mortis; begins in jaw and proceeds downwards
3-4hrs – blood settles to lowest part (hypostasis)
18-20hrs – body the same temperature as the outside air
24hrs – decomposition begins; discoloration of lower abdomen (pronounced in 36hrs)
3 day – entire body shows signs of decay
6-8 weeks – adipocere
If buried – all tissue gone in 1-3yrs
Current projects
Post mortem toxicology
Detection of decomp
Shrunken heads
Body box
More recently...
First Baptist Church of Philadelphia (aka the Arch Street Project)
New classes, new program...
Forensic Serology
Human and Forensic Molecular Biology
Int'l Perspective of Forensic Science
Pattern Evidence
Trace Evidence
Full transcript