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Friday, March 04, 2011

Expert in forensic DNA typing opens annual Shaw Biology Lecture

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Dr. John M. Butler
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Dr. John M. Butler, an international authority on forensic DNA typing, is the inaugural speaker for the annual Marlene V. Shaw Biology Lecture, funded by an endowment established in the USI Foundation.

Butler's lecture "Beyond CSI: Exciting Applications of Forensic DNA" at 7 p.m. March 29 in Mitchell Auditorium of the Health Professions Center is open to the public. He will deliver a second lecture called "Biology, Technology, and Genetics of Forensic DNA Typing" the following day to USI students and faculty.

STR Data Base

Butler earned a doctorate in 1995 from the University of Virginia for dissertation research completed at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. As a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), he designed and built the Short Tandem Repeat Data Base (STRBase) containing standardized information used in human identity applications. He is author of the internationally acclaimed textbook Forensic DNA Typing, now in its third edition.

Currently, Butler leads the efforts in human identity testing at the NIST Biotechnology Division in Gaithersburg, Maryland. 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 identifying the remains of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Solving crimes

"The popular TV series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" has given the impression to the general public that science is used to solve crimes in a matter of minutes," Butler said. "The truth is that data take a little longer to collect and are often not as conclusive as represented on TV. However, over the past two decades, DNA typing methods have revolutionized the law enforcement community with the ability to solve crimes involving biological evidence.

"In the past few years, the general public has become more familiar with the power of DNA evidence as the media has covered the O. J. Simpson murder trial, the identification of the remains in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and efforts to identify the victims of the terrorist attacks from September 11, 2001."

In his lecture, Butler will review basic issues with the biology, technology, and genetics of STRs using a number of forensic DNA cases as examples.

Giving back

The annual lecture bears the name of its founder, Dr. Marlene Shaw, professor emerita of biology. She retired in 2009 after 36 years with USI. The annual lecture will feature speakers based on their scholarship and expertise at the crossroads that biology shares with other academic disciplines and community interests.

"Students, colleagues, and friends have enriched my time at USI," Shaw said. "This annual lecture is a way for me to give back to current and future students, alumni, colleagues, and the community. I gratefully thank those who support this annual lecture."

Dr. Butler will meet and talk with students on Wednesday, March 30 at 1 p.m. in Science Center room 2108. His student lecture will cover Biology, Technology, and Genetics of Forensic DNA Typing.



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