ALBANY, Ga. – Albany State University received more than $600,000 in funding from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to conduct interdisciplinary forensic science research that relates to forensic detection.

forensic science fundingThe research will provide a new tool for forensic identification.Photo courtesy of Albany State UniversityA research team in the Department of Natural and Forensic Sciences, led by assistant professor Yong Jin Lee, professor Zachariah Oommen, and assistant professor Uzoma Okafor, will explore the human microbiome, or genes of microorganisms in and on the body, as trace evidence for forensic identification. Research into microbiome, including human skin, may help link human touched objects to the identity of victims or suspects.

The funding from NIJ highlights the interdisciplinary forensic science expertise and capabilities available at Albany State University.

Trace evidence is clue materials that can be transferred from person-to-person or from person-to-object. It provides valuable information on the association of a suspect with a victim or a crime scene but rarely reveals the identity of a suspect or victim.

“We have more microorganisms on and in our body than our own cells. These microorganisms vary between individuals and may be specific to each individual. Microbial signatures on the objects that are routinely touched by humans could be used as forensic evidence to trace back to the individual who made touch,” Lee said. “In this study, we will explore the possibility of using human microbiome for forensic identification.”

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“This an excellent example of collaboration and breaking down silos,” said Louise Wrensford, ASU associate provost for Research and Sponsored Programs and Graduate School dean. “These researchers united to combine their varied research skills and expertise to develop an interdisciplinary approach to address an issue of national significance.”

Albany State University currently has the only university Forensic Science degree program accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Funding for interdisciplinary research will be provided over a three-year period. The National Institute of Justice is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.