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Department of Forensic Sciences Newsletter ­ Summer 2008


On August 15, The George Washington University was host to a news conference announcing the successful identification of a victim of a 1948 airplane crash on the slopes of Alaska's Mt. Sanford. Fingerprint identification and DNA profiling were used to conclusively identify a left arm recovered in 1999 as belonging to Frank Van Zandt, an American merchant mariner who was returning to the United States from the Far East. Prof. Ted Robinson and Dr. Odile Loreille of AFDIL played important roles in the identification (see page 7 for more details). The news conference required a teleconference hook-up with the Alaska Department of Public Health so that Dr. Stan Kessler, the acting medical examiner, and reporters for Alaska news organizations could participate. The news conference generated a report on the local Fox station and an article in the Washington Post. ________________________________________________________________________


Across the country rising seniors are beginning to think about graduate degree programs. If you know of someone who is considering a career in forensic science, you should put in a good word for your alma mater. The George Washington University has the oldest forensic science degree program in the United States and has graduated more forensic scientists than all the other forensic science degree programs combined. The Washington area also has the largest concentration of forensic science laboratories in the country, so that there are unparalleled internship and research opportunities. The Department offers the Master of Forensic Science degree with concentrations in the following areas: Forensic molecular biology Forensic chemistry Forensic toxicology Crime scene investigation High technology crime investigation Security management

______________________________________________________ MAKE A DONATION

Like every other educational institution in the country, The George Washington University has more demands for resources than it has revenues to meet them. The Department of Forensic Sciences appreciates donations from its graduates. See page 5 for a list of recent donors and for details about how you can make a donation. 1 Summer 2008

The Chair's Column

Ted also disposed of the Department's redundant digital and film cameras to students in his crime scene and photography courses. MOUs

The Department has entered into two significant memoranda of understanding (MOUs). The first is the MOU with the International Association for Identification (IAI). This MOU allows the Department to administer to the crime scene investigation students the IAI certification examination for crime scene investigators. If a graduating student successThis is my first column as the new chair of fully passes this examination he or she the Department of Forensic Sciences. I hope only requires a year of on-the-job experithat this newsletter will keep our current stu- ence to become a certified crime scene dents and our graduates abreast of all the new investigator. This will be a great benefit developments in the Department and its profor our CSI students when they are job grams. I want to begin by acknowledging the hunting. service of Prof. Moses Schanfield, who The Department has also entered into served six years as department chair. Prof. an MOU with the Drug Enforcement Schanfield will be on sabbatical during the Administration. Under this MOU the fall. DEA will accept our students as interns in their laboratories. Students who comNew Equipment plete their internships successfully will have priority in hiring to fill positions in The Department has been lucky to receive a the DEA laboratories. Prior to being acPerkin-Elmer FTIR spectrometer with an incepted into internships the students must frared microscope accessory. This instrument pass DEA background investigations. will greatly enhance the laboratories in the forensic chemistry and trace evidence WiFi in Samson Hall courses. We got this FTIR spectrometer through the good offices of Gerry LaPorte at The University has completed the inthe United States Secret Service Laboratory. stallation of optical fibers and four The FTIR has been delivered to our laborarouters on the first floor of Samson Hall. tory and is now being set up. There is now complete wireless coverage Ted Robinson has been able to get Nikon to throughout the Department's laboratories loan us twenty-five complete digital camera and offices. Students will be able to ackits for use in the crime scene investigation cess the Internet from their laptop comand forensic photography courses. Right now puters. The Department will also be able the plan is that each year the cameras will be to link the desktop computers in the laboreplaced with new ones; the used cameras ratories to the Internet. will then be sold at a discount, with faculty and students having first priority. 2 Summer 2008

Faculty Pages

ethic origin and somatic traits of an individual from DNA. This is one of the greatest challenges yet to be effectively Prof. Lappas spoke at a ACS sponsored overcome in the field of forensic molecusymposium, "Introduction to Toxicology, lar biology and is of great interest to the Chemical Toxicology in Action", for high forensic science community. school and college students and faculty in Two interesting projects, conducted by Washington, DC, on April 12, 2008. He also st Dr Podini's students have recently been spoke at the 61 annual meeting of the Retired Chemists Society of Washington, Wash- submitted to the AAFS 2009 meeting: one examines the molecular genetic basis ington, D.C., on June 18, 2008. Prof. Lappas is completing a research profor microvariant alleles at the D21S11 ject with Jerry Robinson, Director of Relocus; the other centers on the developsearch at the Office of Forensic Research, ment of a rapid (20-30 minutes) Real Forensic Toxicology and Drug Testing Labo- Time PCR assay that enables simultaneratory, Pretrial Services Agency, Washington, ous quantitation of nuclear autosomal D.C. and graduate student Lora Wharton con- DNA, detection of the presence of Y cerning the prevalence of amphetamine abuse chromosomes for gender determination, among DC arrestees. quantitation of mitochondrial DNA, and determination of the presence of inhibitors in a sample. Prof. Daniele Podini Prof. Nicholas Lappas In the past year Prof. Podini has been working on several projects, one of which is funded by The George Washington University through the University Faculty Funding program and one funded by the Forensic Science Foundation. He has also important scientific collaborations with the Research Section of the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) and with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which also give students valuable research and internship opportunities. Prof. Podini's research focuses on developing molecular biology assays that maximize the information that can be obtained by a sample, while minimizing its consumption. More specifically, this year, he has focused on the development of a methodology to simultaneously type a large number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes to study the possibility of predicting 3 Prof. Edward Robinson Prof. Robinson is presenting at the IAI meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, on August 20th. This will be the first full presentation on the identification of the arm recovered from the Alaskan glacier 51 years after a DC-4 crashed into Mt Sanford there. Prof. Robinson headed up the fingerprint team which identified the arm by fingerprints. Scientists from AFDIL will be speaking about their efforts (successful) to identify the arm by DNA. Fortunately, the DNA and the fingerprints both identified the same guy!!! There are some pictures of the arm and the fingers on page 6. Prof. Robinson is currently working on the second edition of his book Crime Scene Photography. Effective August 1, 2008, it is the one photography book on the IAI Crime Scene Certification Board required reading list for all three levels of Summer 2008

Professor Schanfield is stepping down as chair of the department of forensic sciences after six years and taking a six month sabbatical. During his sabbatical he will be writing articles on his research area of population genetics looking at the distribuProf. Walter Rowe tion of genetic markers in Pacific Island Prof. Rowe assumed the chair of the De- populations, as well as the differentiation partment of Forensic Sciences on July 1. of populations in Siberia and Southeast During the summer he has been teaching a Asia. His future plans include setting up renew undergraduate course ForS 190: Forensic Science and National Security. He search on DNA based typing of traditional developed this course to support National serological markers for forensic and anSecurity Intern program. This course is a thropological research, setting up a new course in human genetic variation and desurvey of basic forensic science with an emphasis of the role that forensic science veloping a joint program in anthropological genetics with the department of anthropolplays in national security and intelligence. Prof. Rowe is finally writing up the reogy. sults of his analyses of bullets and exProf. Schanfield will again be program pended cartridges recovered from the scene chair of the International Society of Apof the Fetterman Massacre, which took plied Biological Sciences meeting in Split, place in northern Wyoming in 1866. Croatia, June 1-5, 2009. The title of the Prof. Rowe is also writing up the research 6th conference will be "Human Genome he has done (with many graduate students) Project Based Applications in Forensic on the forensic analysis of writings made Science, Anthropology and Individualized with different types of writing instruments: Medicine." The Department had three prespermanent markers, gel pens and dry erase entations at the 5th meeting, two of them markers. by graduate students -- Melinda Hung, who Prof. Rowe has also completed a revision could not attend, and Tahnee Nelson, who of his firearms and tool marks chapter in is currently at the San Francisco PD laborathe popular forensic science textbook Fotory and gave the presentation on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) single nucleotide rensic Science: An Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques, edited polymorphism (SNP) assays. Prof. Schanby Stuart James and Jon Nordby. field joined Prof. Podini and Tahnee and Prof, Rowe has been the point man for the Melinda a patent application for a PCR kit.

certification. Ted is also researching the capabilities of the Nikon D3 camera which offers an ISO equivalent to 25,600! His research will test the limits of this camera's ability to capture details in dim light and still be able to produce an image of a subject that can be recognized. Last Fall Prof. Robinson was elected to the position of third vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Division of the International Association of Identification and he expects to move up to second vice president this fall.

acquisition of a Perkin-Elmer FTIR system. He has also presented talks on firearms examinations to students at Battlefield High School in Haymarket, Virginia, and to students in the CTY Program run by Johns Hopkins at St. Stephen and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia. Prof. Moses Schanfield


Summer 2008

Prof. Eva Vincze Prof. Vincze is the Program Director for the Security Management and High Technology Crime Investigations Programs. She also teaches in the program. Prof. Vincze is presently researching ways of using technology to enhance learning in the Forensic Sciences. In particular she is looking at ways to develop and incorporate simulations, 3D animation, gaming and the use of virtual crime scenes into the curriculum using a variety of multimedia devices. She is evaluating their effectiveness for adult learning over more traditional methods of instruction. Alumni/Alumnae News

the money is earmarked for our use. Otherwise, the money goes into the University's general fund. Many thanks to the following: Candice L. Cook Beth Carlson Kimmerling (two donations) John Joseph Tobin, Jr. Palmer Gleason Tunstall Megan L. Bishop Frank Joseph Massaro Tahnee Marie Nelson Carla Daun Paintner Daniele Podini Kassondra A. Stockman Wesley Rory Thomas Colleen A. Dunn THANKS!

Moved? Hired? Fired? Retired? Worked on a cool case? Published some awesome research? Discovered who really shot JFK? Figured out what's really going on in Area 51? Prosecuted? Named unindicted co-conspirator? Inquiring minds (at least those of your professors and fellow graduates) want to know. Well, okay, we don't want to hear about the last two. But we do want to know how your life has been going since you left us. So tell us. Send short blurbs about your life so far to Walter F. Rowe [email protected] He'll put them right here in future issues of this newsletter. Forensic Science Gifts May 2007 to July 2008 We deeply appreciate the gifts of our alumni/alumnae to the Department. Each gift allows us to advance our research and educational goals. If your check is made out to the Department of Forensic Sciences,

Prof. Podini would also like to thank all those who contributed money at the Department of Forensic Sciences reception at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in February. The funds raised enabled him to purchase a Savant OligoPrep OP120 Speedvac for concentrating DNA samples.


Summer 2008

Recent Meetings

Stephanie Moore receives $1000 MAAFS scholarship

The department was well represented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Many alumni/alumnae as well as students attended the meeting which was held here Washington, DC. Many alumni/alumnae presented papers at this meeting. We were happy to see so many familiar faces at the departmental reception. We are looking forward to seeing you all in Denver in '09. Rachel Dubin presented a paper before the document section entitled "Analysis of Writings Made with Black Gel Pens." Rachel used a variety of analytical techniques to characterize black gel inks: thin-layer chromatography, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and visible-near infrared spectrophotometry. Christie Mitchell was able to fly back from Washington state (where she is currently employed as a forensic toxicologist) to give a paper entitled "Analysis of Dry Erase Markers" before the same session of the document section. Christie used solubility tests, visible-near infrared reflectance spectrophotometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to characterize writing made with dry erase markers. Prof. Rowe, her co-author, presented this paper at the annual meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists (MAAFS), which was held in Huntington, West Virginia. The biggest news from the MAAFS meeting was Stephanie Moore winning a $1000 MAAFS scholarship. She presented a paper entitled "Analysis of Blue Gel Pens" This paper was based on her dissertation research, which she did under the direction of Prof. Walter Rowe. As a result of her presentation she was asked to present a seminar at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg. She was also hired at NIST on a two-year contract. Stephanie will be working with Dr. Bill MacCrehan.


Summer 2008

Cool Forensic Stuff

Dead Men's Fingers There with fantastic garlands did she come Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples That liberal shepherds give a grosser name, But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.... --William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Left: Arm in situ on glacier Right: Fingers before (above) and after (below) rejuvenation. In 1948, a DC-4 carrying 24 Merchant Marines and 6 crew members crashed into Mt Sanford in Alaska. The debris fell onto a glacier at the foot of the mountain, and was swallowed up. Because of rumors of treasure aboard the plane, this crash became very famous in Alaska, and treasure hunters began looking for the crash site. In 1996, the crash site was located, and annual trips to the site were made by the two pilots who found it. In 1999, a left forearm (above left) was found at the crash site by airline pilots Kevin MacGregor and Marc Millican. Initial attempts by the Alaska Medical Examiner to identify the arm by fingerprints were unsuccessful. In 2007, AFIP agreed to attempt an identification of the arm by comparing DNA from the arm to current family members of the victims aboard the plane. To double the chances for an identification, AFIP recruited Prof. Robinson to attempt rejuvenation of the tissues of the fingers for a fingerprint ID. Though the epidermis of the fingers was missing, a fingerprint identification was made! The fingerprints from the fingers matched those on file for Frank Van Zandt, an American merchant mariner whose legal residence at the time of his death was Roanoke, Virginia. Dr. Odile Loreille at AFDIL also identified the arm by DNA. She used a DNA reference sample from a distant relative of Van Zandt. Among fingerprint examiners, this case is currently regarded as the identification of the oldest desiccated/embalmed tissue on record. In November 2007 Profs. Podini and Schanfield, along with former graduate students Tahnee Nelson and Melinda Hung, made a provisional application for a patent for a DNA amplification kit that detects a large array of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on mitochondrial DNA. The kit provides information about the population ancestry of the source of the mitochondrial DNA.

Done some cool crime scene work or some cool forensic work? Let Prof. Rowe ([email protected])


Summer 2008

know and he will put it here.


Summer 2008


Summer 2008


Department of Forensic Sciences

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