• DNA

    The Future of Forensic Science Initiative

    Forensic Science Transformed to Provide Justice for All

Our People

 

Director: 

Tess M.S. Neal

Associate Professor of Psychology
School of Social & Behavioral Sciences

Tess M.S. Neal serves as the inaugural director of the Future of Forensic Science Initiative. She is the principal investigator of the Clinical and Legal Judgment Lab and a founding member of the Law and Behavioral Science group. She studies human judgment processes as they intersect with the law, including how expertise develops in forensic scientists and the trouble judges have with screening out low-quality forensic evidence. In Spring 2022, she will be in Sydney, Australia on a Fulbright Scholar Award studying Australian expert evidence admissibility rules as related to forensic evidence.


 Executive Committee:
The FFSI Executive committee works in partnership with the director and advisory board to develop and grow the initiative in line with its vision and mission. The executive committee consists of 2-3 faculty members who each serve a term of 3 years, along with an early career representative (postdoctoral scholar or graduate student). The committee meets 2-3 times per year to advance the initiative's strategic goals, and seeks regular input from and provides updates to the members of FFSI.

Sreetharan Kanthaswamy

Professor of Genetics
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Sreetharan Kanthaswamy is Professor of Genetics and Director, Forensic Science Professional Science Masters (PSM) Program. His expertise is in population, forensic, and conservation genetics. His basic research aims to establish species-specific genetic markers for accurate identification and to enhance the population genetics database for each species. His forensic science research is based on the analyses of biological samples collected at crime scenes or from civil cases for DNA-typing. Besides providing educational and research opportunities for students in his laboratory, Dr Kanthaswamy also provides expert witness testimony on animal/veterinary forensic DNA analysis and casework review. Research website.
Gwyn Gordon ASU

Gwyneth Gordon

Assistant Research Professor of Isotope Geochemistry
School of Earth & Space Exploration

Gwyneth Gordon is Assistant Research Faculty in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and manages the METAL analytical facility. She applies analytical chemistry to forensic trace evidence, with particular expertise in isotope analysis. She works with forensic anthropologists to validate isotopes to infer travel history for human remains. She has also been a volunteer Crime Scene Specialist with the Mesa Police Department for more than ten years, providing unique crossover insights between academia and practitioners. Research website.

Jonathan J. Parrott

Assistant Professor of Biology & Entomology
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Jonathan J. Parrott specializes in research centered on the use of molecular and ecological techniques to help reduce error, aid understanding, and improve time of death investigations from biological evidence. This work encompasses cross-disciplinary research including insect, human, and environmental analysis. Research website. Research website.

Advisory Board: 
The FFSI Advisory Board provides counsel toward developing and growing the initiative in line with its vision and mission. The advisory board consists of 6 members who each serve a term of 3 years (with potential for renewal of term). The board meets once per year with the executive committee of FFSI to advise the initiative's strategic goals and activities.

Michael Saks

Michael J. Saks

Regents Professor of Law and Psychology
Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Department of Psychology

 

Michael J. Saks is a Regents Professor of Law and Psychology and a faculty fellow with the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at ASU. His research interests focus on empirical studies of law and the legal system, evidence law, the law's use of science, and legal policy affecting medical patient safety. He has published more than 35 articles on forensic science, including a landmark paper in Science Magazine called "The Coming Paradigm Shift in Forensic Identification Science" (2005). He provided testimony to the Congressionally-charged committee of the National Academy of Sciences that produced the historic 2009 report titled "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States."

 


 

FFSI Faculty Affiliates
Jane Buikstra

Jane Buikstra

Regents Professor of Anthropology
School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Jane Buikstra, a Regent's Professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences, is credited with forming the discipline of bioarchaeology, which applies biological anthropological methods to the study of archaeology. Her research encompasses bioarchaeology, paleopathology, forensic anthropology and paleodemography. Research website
Elly van Gelderen

Elly van Gelderen

Regents Professor of Linguistics
Department of English

Elly van Gelderen is a syntactician interested in language change. She studies syntactic change (grammaticalization and the linguistic cycle) and has examined a number of debates in theoretical syntax. Related interests are the evolution of language, biolinguistics, prescriptivism, authorship debates, forensic linguistics, and code switching. She occasionally teaches and lectures about forensic linguistics and linguistic evidence at ASU. Research website.
Anne Stone

Anne Stone

Regents Professor of Anthropology
School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Anne Stone, a Regents Professor and AAAS fellow, specializes in anthropological genetics. Her research focuses on population history and understanding how humans and the great apes have adapted to their environments. Her lines of work are cross-disciplinary, variously involving bioarcheological, molecular genetic, population genetic, and genomic analyses. Some of her work is applicable in forensic contexts, such as her collaborative work on forensic genetics, developing techniques for recovering DNA from burned and degraded bone. Research website
Jon Gould

Jon B. Gould

Foundation Professor in Criminology, Justice, and Law, School Director
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Jon B. Gould is an internationally known expert on justice policy, social change, and government reform. He is regularly called upon to serve as a consultant to governments and non-governmental organizations alike, both domestically and abroad. Most recently, Gould was appointed and served as a Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Justice during the Obama Administration and was director of the Law and Social Sciences Program at the National Science Foundation.
Ariel Anbar

Ariel D. Anbar

President’s Professor of Isotope Geochemistry
School of Earth & Space Exploration; School of Molecular Sciences

Ariel D. Anbar is a scientist and educator interested in Earth’s evolution as an inhabited world, and the prospects for life beyond. His work explores the biogeochemistry of metals in the middle of the periodic table, using isotopic and other methods. He develops and applies novel analytic techniques in isotope geochemistry (particularly mass spectrometry) to ancient sedimentary rocks to study the deep time history of O2 and bioessential metals in the oceans. Research website
Douglas Sylvester

Douglas Sylvester

Professor of Law, Dean
Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Dean Douglas Sylvester's work focuses on intellectual property law and commercialization, international law, emerging technologies, and privacy. He is the 8th dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, which has reached historic heights under his leadership. In 2009, he served as moderator for the two-day "Forensic Science For the 21st Century: The National Academy of Sciences Report and Beyond" conference at ASU.

Patricia Friedrich 

Professor of Sociolinguistics, New College Associate Dean
School of Social and Behavioral Sciences 

 

Patricia Friedrich is a sociolinguist whose interests include the politics of language and forensic linguistics, among other topics. She is the author/editor of ten books, including Applied Linguistics in the Real World (2019). She teaches classes in Sociolinguistics, History of the English Language, and Forensic Linguistics.
Chris Stojanowski

Christopher Stojanowski

Professor of Anthropology
Director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Christopher Stojanowski is a bioarchaeologist who specializes in the analysis of human skeletal remains and dentition. He uses information from ancient sites to reconstruct the lives of past peoples. He is interested in dentition, generally, spatial analysis, and multivariate analysis of complex phenotypes. His fundamental work in bioarchaeology is occasionally applied to forensic contexts, such as his work in forensic biohistory. 
Hank Fradella

Henry F. ("Hank") Fradella

Professor of Justice Studies, Associate School Director
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Henry F. ("Hank") Fradella researches the historical development of substantive, procedural, and evidentiary criminal law; the evaluation of law's effects on human behavior; the dynamics of legal decision-making; and the nature, sources, and consequences of variations and changes in legal institutions or processes. He has a master's degree in forensic science (in addition to a PhD and JD) and has written multiple books and academic articles about forensic science in courts. His forensically-relevant work has been cited in multiple judicial opinions in legal cases.
Tony Grubesic

Tony H. Grubesic

Professor of Geographic Information Science, Center Director
School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Tony H. Grubesic is the College Professor of Policy Analytics and the director of the Center for Spatial Reasoning and Policy Analytics at ASU. His research and teaching interests are in geographic information science, spatial analytics, regional development and public policy evaluation. He is currently PI on a collaborative and cross-disciplinary MURI-funded project to close basic research gaps in forensic palynology and improve the U.S. government’s ability to identify where and when weapons of destruction are moving by meaningfully geolocating pollen samples with inputs from DNA metabarcoding. Research website. 
Kelly Knudson

Kelly Knudson

Professor of Anthropology, Center Director
School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Kelly Knudson directs of the Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory at Arizona State University, where she and her research team apply biogeochemistry to anthropological research questions. She is also the director of the Center for Bioarchaeological Research at Arizona State University. Her primary archeological research focuses on political integration and the intersections of different social identities in ancient peoples. She also conducts forensically-relevant research, such as collaborative work developing methods to use isotopic elements in hair to learn more about the history of an individual and to inform evidence preservation. Research website

Valena Beety

Professor of Law; Center Deputy Director
Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Valena Beety is professor of law and deputy director of the Academy for Justice, a criminal justice center connecting research with policy reform. Previously, she served as a law professor and the founding director of the West Virginia Innocence Project at the West Virginia University College of Law. Her experiences as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and as an innocence litigator in Mississippi and West Virginia, shape her research and writing on wrongful convictions, forensic evidence, the opioid crisis and incarceration. At WVU, Beety created and was the inaugural director of the first Forensic Justice LL.M. degree program in the United States. Research website
Pam Marshall

Pamela Marshall

Professor of Cellular Biology and Genetics
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Pamela Marshall's work focuses on the biogenesis and functions of a particular type of yeast vacuole as a model organism to study cellular responses. With undergraduate research assistants, she studies vacuolar protein trafficking, volutin granule formation, mathematical modeling of calcium homeostasis and gene networks, and microarray analysis of yeast with chronic losses of vacuolar function. She has collaborated with interdisciplinary teams to investigate scientific forensic questions, and co-leads an NSF iCURE on The Persistence of Latent Forensic Evidence. Research website
Richard Hervig

Richard Hervig

Professor of Geochemistry
School of Earth and Space Exploration

 

Richard Hervig has developed new analytical techniques in secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), applies SIMS to geochemistry and cosmochemistry problems, and has made significant improvements in instrument performance through implementation of novel designs. His collaborative research with electrical engineers has presented new ways of applying SIMS to problems in earth science. Besides training researchers in the use of SIMS, he also teaches classes in petrology, geochemistry, analytical instrumentation, and nuclear forensics to chemistry, engineering, and geology students. Research website
Jose Ashford

José B. Ashford

Professor of Sociology and Social Work
School of Social Work

 

José B. Ashford directs the Office of Offender Diversion and Sentencing Solutions and the Office of Forensic Social Work Research and Training, and coordinates the Graduate Certificate in Criminal Sentencing and Sentencing Advocacy. His is widely published in areas dealing with the assessment, classification, and treatment of special need offenders, juvenile aftercare, recidivism prevention, mental health, and forensic social work. His research and training lab is located at the Arizona Justice Project in the Sandra Day O' Connor College of Law. He testifies around the country as an expert in the assessment of mitigating factors in capital murder cases and consults in sentencing and resentencing cases. Research website
Keith Holbert

Keith E. Holbert

Associate Professor and Program Director
School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering; Nuclear Power Generation Program

Keith E. Holbert is the founding director of the nuclear power generation program. His research expertise is in the area of instrumentation and system diagnostics, including radiation effects on sensors, sensor fault detection, and noise analysis. In addition to his fundamental work in nuclear engineering, he has occasionally done work relevant to forensic contexts, such as a large technical project for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency called "Li-Ion Batteries for Forensic Neutron Dosimetry" which generated 6 academic papers, a symposium at IEEE Nuclear Science, and supported the mentorship of multiple undergraduate and graduate students. Research website
Erika Camacho

Erika T. Camacho

Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics
School of Mathematical & Natural Sciences

 

Erika T. Camacho conducts research and teaches at the interface of mathematical applications to biology and sociology. She serves as Program Lead for the Computational Forensics B.S. degree program at ASU, a multidisciplinary program that encompasses quantitative and computational methods to assist basic and applied research efforts in forensic science through modeling, computer simulations, and computer-based analysis and recognition. Dr. Camacho is currently serving as NSF Program Director for the ADVANCE Program. She is a Ford Fellow, Sloan Fellow, and a Mellon Mays Fellow. Research website
Tricia Redeker Hepner

Tricia Redeker-Hepner

Associate Professor of Anthropology
School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

 

Tricia Redeker Hepner is a political and legal anthropologist with a regional focus in Africa, and thematic interests in migration and displacement, transnationalism, human rights, transitional justice, militarism, and conflict and peace. She directs ASU's M.A. Program in Social Justice and Human Rights, is a former Fulbright Scholar, and has had her work funded by multiple agencies. She has participated in hundreds of asylum and refugee cases, and her testimony has been influential in immigration rulings in the US, Canada, Europe, and Israel. She has collaborated with forensic anthropologists and archaeologists to examine the meanings and material impacts of the missing and unidentified dead in post-war Northern Uganda’s transitional justice process and to document improper burials in mass graves and former displacement camps.

Nick Schweitzer

Associate Professor of Psychology
School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Nick Schweitzer is the director of ASU's Law and Behavioral Science group and an associate professor in ASU's School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. His research focuses on how scientific information (e.g., medical experiments, psychological evaluations, forensic evidence, neuroscience, machine learning) is understood and used by decision makers, particularly in the legal system. Research website
Tom Cahill

Tom Cahill

Associate Professor of Chemistry
School of Mathematical & Natural Sciences

 

Tom Cahill studies and teaches about environmental and analytical chemistry, although an eclectic publication record attests to wide-ranging interest. He develops analytical methods for new chemicals of concern, uses field sample collection techniques to assess biological impacts of chemicals, and models the environmental and biological fate of chemicals. His primary research goal is to determine the effects of anthropogenic chemicals on organisms and ecosystems by linking the fields of environmental chemistry, which determines the fate and transport of a chemical in the environment, and toxicology, which assesses the impacts of chemicals on organisms and ecosystems. Recent projects have focused on organic pollutants in aerosols in an effort to identify the source of the pollutants, determining the elemental contaminants in biota of contaminated ecosystems, and determining the concentration of acrolein, a highly toxic aldehyde, in both environmental and domestic environments.

Jessica Salerno

Associate Professor of Psychology
School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Jessica Salerno is an Associate Professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and a founding member of the Law and Behavioral Science group. She studies the social psychology of legal decision making. Research website
 
Lindsay Smith
 
Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology
School for the Future of Innovation in Society
Lindsay Smith works at the intersection of human rights, medical anthropology, and forensic science to understand the role of new technological innovations in post-conflict settings. She has worked with families, scientists, and activist groups in Central America to document how citizens and scientists have drawn on DNA as a tool for justice after genocide and to document the violence and disappearance that migrants suffer in Mexico and the US-borderlands. At the core of her writing, research, and teaching lies the question of how and when new technologies can be used to address human suffering caused by violence and dispossession. She received a 2020 NSF CAREER Award to explore innovative and ethical uses of technology in the borderlands. Research website
Lauren Weidner

Lauren Weidner

Assistant Professor of Entomology
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Lauren Weidner is a board certified forensic entomologist whose research focuses on the biodiversity of forensically important insects and how the environment influences their arrival and colonization of remains. Additionally, her work investigates larval morphology of forensically relevant blow flies. Dr. Weidner is also the Program Lead for the Forensic Science B.S. degree program at ASU. Research website
Shirly Montero

Shirly Montero

Assistant Professor of Chemistry
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Shirly Montero is an Assistant Professor at the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences of Arizona State University. Driven to protect the integrity of evidence and reduce miscarriages of justice, her lab studies factors that affect the value of non-biological trace evidence, its sampling, analysis, interpretation, and communication. Her lab is highly interdisciplinary and uses tools from analytical chemistry, data science, and cognitive science. 
Katelyn Bolhofner

Katelyn Bolhofner

Assistant Professor of Anthropology
School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Katelyn Bolhofner is an Assistant Professor of Forensic Anthropology and PI of the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory in the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, and an Affiliated Faculty member of the Center for Bioarchaeological Research in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Her research in forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology links skeletal biology to issues of social identity, health, and human interactions in historical and archaeological contexts, as well as in contemporary society. The Forensic Anthropology Laboratory is currently engaged in an extended research study examining the skeletal manifestations of abuse and neglect in the elderly, as well as in a multi-stage experimental analysis of decomposition in the Sonoran Desert. 

Mickey Mancenido

Assistant Professor of Statistics
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Michelle (Mickey) Mancenido’s research focuses on the design and analysis of statistical experiments in engineering, scientific, and industrial applications. Mancenido's expertise is in optimal experimental designs, statistical modeling for chemical and mixture experiments, and sensory experiments. She’s an advocate of well-designed experiments as the key to robust scientific conclusions, user-centric product design and efficient industrial processes. Research website
 

Laura Smalarz

Assistant Professor of Psychology
School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Laura Smalarz's research program aims to facilitate accurate legal outcomes in criminal cases by developing and testing evidence-based practices for collecting, preserving, and presenting criminal evidence. Her research has identified various sources of bias, and remedies for those biases, in eyewitness-identification evidence, confession evidence, and forensic evidence. Research website
 

Kimberly Kobojek

Clinical Associate Professor, Forensic Science
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Kimberly Kobojek has been involved with Forensic Science for over 24 years as Forensic Scientist with the City of Phoenix and faculty member in Forensic Science with ASU. Since coming to ASU, Kim has developed over half a dozen courses for the major; served as the first Program Director for the major; and continued to forge collaborations with local forensic laboratories. Teaching is a passion of Kim's, and she hopes to continue her contributions to ASU and the Forensic Science community.
Ken Sweat

Ken G. Sweat

Principal Lecturer, Plant Biology
School of Mathematical & Natural Sciences

Ken G. Sweat is a plant biologist and botanist and an award-winning teacher. He teaches upper-division plant biology courses at ASU and life-long learning course on a range of topics from tequila, to climate change, to the boojum tree at institutions like the Desert Botanical Garden and ASU's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He frequently facilitates student-driven research projects in forensic botany and environmental sciences. His forensic botany research projects include work with stomata, pollen, diatoms and fungi. 
FFSI Postdoctoral Scholars
Matthew Emery

Matthew V. Emery

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Isotopic Anthropology, Bioarchaeology, & Ancient DNA
School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Matthew V. Emery is interested in using both ancient DNA and isotopic methods to answer questions about population dynamics, human migration, and large-scale palaeodemographic changes in the archaeological past. His past research focused on deciphering the geographic origins of soldiers in the War of 1812, using isotope and multi-criteria evaluation-GIS analysis. His more recent research obtained isotope and ancient whole-mitochondrial genomes from Iron Age and Roman skeletal assemblages. Currently, he is integrating ancient DNA extraction methods with those employed in modern forensic DNA laboratories to better understand the nature of DNA degradation of forensic human remains when subjected to high intensity thermal changes from the surrounding environment, such as fire.

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