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Heath department supervisor talks role of DNA in forensic biology

By Patrick Kelley
On April 12, 2012


The University of Rhode Island's Forensic Seminar Series continued yesterday with its latest lecture, "DNA/Forensic Biology." Supervisor of the Rhode Island Department of Health's Forensic Biology/DNA Lab Cara Lupino delivered the lecture in Pastore Hall.

Attending were students from all forensic minors, including junior digital forensics minor Zach Wyman who explained, "the seminars gave me a broader view of forensics."  

The first part of the seminar discussed the role of the laboratory in DNA and forensic biology. This role is broken into five parts: recipient, or chain of custody, processing and preservation, analysis, interpretation and presentation of the lab findings in court. 

The second part discussed DNA in relation to forensic science. After a basic explanation of DNA, its structure and basic building blocks, Lupino moved on to STRs, or short tandem repeats. STRs are abundant within DNA strands and deteriorate slower than other structures, making them a prime tool for DNA testing and comparison. Lupino also discussed the method for extracting and testing DNA and the various machines used to process the extracts.

URI has a close relationship with the state forensics lab. One facility of the state crime lab resides in Fogarty Hall and the other facility is located in Providence.

The scope of the Forensic Seminar series ranges from investigative reporting, presented by NBC 10 investigative reporter Jim Taricani, to explosives, presented by Mark Zabinski, criminalist at the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory. All fall under the broad category of criminalistics.

The program aims to provide a chance for students, faculty and the public to develop a better understanding of the methods used to solve and prevent crimes. The seminars are held every week on Wednesday and Friday from 3:30 P.M. to 5 P.M. in Pastore Hall room 124. Next week's lecture features Laurie Oglivie, a supervisor at the Rhode Island Department of Health forensic toxicology laboratory. All seminars are free and open to the public.

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