Creating Tomorrow's CSI

Students at DU are developing new forensic tools that will soon be catching criminals.

Phil Danielson, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, heads up a lab that creates new forensic tools and takes them from research to real-world crime solving. Laboratories like this are rare—only six other forensics lab groups in the country specialize in mitrochondrial DNA, a special type of DNA that Danielson’s lab works on.

Letting students participate in this kind of research is even more rare, but graduate and undergraduate students have long been a fixture in Danielson’s lab. Two current students—Dustin Gilbert, a DU graduate from Evergreen, Colo. (now a veterinary student at Colorado State University), and Kevin Legg, a senior in bioinformatics from Portland, Ore.—have found protein markers that crime scene investigators can use to identify different body fluids.

Legg recently presented their results at a National Institutes of Justice conference. “They loved it,” he says. “We printed off 50 copies [of our handouts], and they were gone within two minutes.”

Hear from the students and Danielson about their groundbreaking research:

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Published on Sept. 5, 2008