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MSU CSE Colloquium Series 2015-2016: John Butler Forensic DNA Analysis: How it is performed and thoughts on its future

John Butler
NIST Fellow & Special Assistant to the Director for Forensic Science
National Institute of Standards and Technology

Time: Friday, October 23, 2015, 11:00am
Location: Anthony Hall 1257

Since its introduction in the mid-1980s, forensic DNA testing has played an important role in the criminal justice community through aiding conviction of the guilty and exoneration of the innocent. Remains from missing persons and victims of mass disasters have been re-associated and identified through linking reference samples to recovered remains. New technologies are regularly introduced and validated to expand the capabilities of laboratories working to recover DNA results from challenging samples with improved sensitivity and informativeness. Forensic laboratories have embraced automation for sample preparation and data interpretation in order to meet increasing throughput demands. Short tandem repeat (STR) typing continues to be the primary workhorse in forensic DNA analysis although new genetic markers are under development for specific applications.

This presentation will review where the field of forensic DNA testing has come over the past 30 years and where it is likely headed over the next decade. New STR loci have expanded the core set of genetic markers used for human identification in Europe and the United States. Rapid DNA testing is on the verge of enabling new applications. Massively parallel sequencing, also known as next-generation sequencing, can provide a deeper look into genetic variation with commonly used STR markers. Familial searching has expanded the application of DNA database profiles beyond the traditional direct matches to information contained in the database. Challenges and opportunities that will impact the future of forensic DNA methodology and interpretation will be explored including the need for education and training to improve interpretation of complex DNA profiles.

John M. Butler is a NIST Fellow and Special Assistant to the Director for Forensic Science at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In January 2014, Dr. Butler was named a Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS). He has written five volumes (2001, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2015) of his internationally acclaimed textbook Forensic DNA Typing as well as two U.S. patents and 150 scientific articles and invited book chapters. Several of his books have been translated into Chinese (2007, 2013) and Japanese (2009). He holds a B.S. in chemistry from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Virginia. His Ph.D. research, which was conducted in the FBI Laboratory, involved pioneering the techniques now used worldwide in modern forensic DNA testing.

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Butler has worked in government and industry. He enjoys teaching and regularly presents training workshops to scientists, students, and lawyers. He designed and maintains STRBase (, an information resource for short tandem repeat DNA markers used in human identity testing.

He advises numerous national and international forensic DNA efforts including being a regular invited guest to the FBI's Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM) and a member of the Biology/DNA Scientific Area Committee of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC). From 2002 to 2005 as a member of the World Trade Center Kinship and Data Analysis Panel, he aided the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner in their work to identify the remains of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Dr. Butler is a member of the International Society of Forensic Genetics (ISFG), the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), and the International Association for Identification (IAI). He serves as an Associate Editor for the prestigious journal Forensic Science International: Genetics and is also on the editorial board for the Journal of Forensic Sciences and the Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Dr. Butler has received numerous awards during his career including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2002), the Department of Commerce Gold Medal (2008) and Silver Medal (2002), the Arthur S. Flemming Award (2007), Edward Uhler Condon Award (2010), Brigham Young University's College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Honored Alumnus (2005), and the Scientific Prize of the International Society of Forensic Genetics (2003). In August 2011, announced that Dr. Butler was number one in the world as a high-impact author (number of citations per paper published) in legal medicine and forensic science for the decade of 2001-2011. He and his wife serve in their community and church and are the parents of six children, all of which have been proven to be theirs through DNA testing.

Dr. Anil K. Jain