Research projects

  • UiO:Life Science: Medical, legal and lay understandings of physical evidence in rape cases (Evidently Rape)
  • Development and maintenance of software to validate methods (STR-validator), and to compare (CaseSolver) and interpret (EuroForMix) complex mixed DNA profiles in crime cases. The software is used by many laboratories worldwide.
  • Development and maintenance of software to establish relationships based on DNA data (Familias), and to handle linked markers in relationship inference (FamLink and FamLinkX). All software is widely used by many forensic laboratories.
  • Developing and improving methods to obtain usable DNA profiles from more traces.
  • Transfer, persistence and recovery of forensic DNA traces. The application of Bayes Nets to interpret evidence that is relevant at the activity level.
  • Novel applications of massively parallel sequencing in forensic genetics e.g. microbiome, body fluid identification, and extending existing methods to detect highly degraded materials and to improve discriminating power.
  • Create custom MPS panels with a great number of SNP markers (collaboration with the supplier) with applications both in relationship inference, ancestry inference and mixture evaluations.

PhD projects

Improvement of interpretation of DNA traces at activity level

PhD candidate: Chiara Fantinato

This PhD project focuses on increasing knowledge about DNA and body fluids transfer and persistence in criminal cases. The aim of the project is to develop tools that will aid in the interpretation of DNA traces at activity level in criminal cases and to deliver an unbiased framework for reliable statistical interpretation of opposing hypotheses put forward by prosecution and defense lawyers. The work involves experiments to improve the understanding of background DNA and body fluids, investigate the feasibility of aerosol DNA for forensic applications and characterize DNA transfer rates at different scenarios. The results of this project will be incorporated in a large dataset that will be made available to the forensic community to facilitate the interpretation of evidence in criminal cases.

New methods to interpret forensic DNA profiles using advanced computer modelling techniques

PhD candidate: Maria Martin Agudo

Massive parallel sequencing (MPS) is a cutting-edge technology for DNA sequencing. In the future, it is expected that routine laboratories will implement this technology as part of the workflow for the analysis and interpretation of DNA profiles. For this reason, we are developing new statistical models suitable for MPS data.

Firstly, we need to understand certain characteristics inherent to this type of data. In this project, we focus on artefacts called stutters; these are generated in vitro during the amplification of short tandem repeats (STRs) via polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Stutters can interfere in the interpretation of DNA profiles, specially of mixtures from different contributors with low template DNA. Statistical quantification of the stutters will be used for building a calibration framework as part of the model. We will also create a new Norwegian allele frequency database for MPS data which will be used for evaluating the weight of evidence (WoE) of the DNA profiles.  

Increasing the efficiency of rape investigation by using advances in forensic evidence analysis

PhD candidate: Helen Maria Johannessen

In criminal cases, a DNA profile recovered from an item can link a suspect to the crime scene. However, the DNA profile itself can only provide information to help identify the donor of cellular material and does not explain how (direct or indirect transfer) or when (before, during or after the crime event) the cellular material was deposited.  In this PhD project we will investigate transfer, persistence and recovery of DNA and body fluids (gene expression markers) in samples collected from body and clothing after social contact and sexual contact. This knowledge is essential to evaluate the findings in cases related to sexual assault cases. In addition a method that can link a body fluid to a specific contributor to a crime stain, containing DNA from two or more individuals, will be attempted. 

The aim of this project is to develop tools that will aid interpretation and understanding of DNA traces at activity level in sexual assault cases. The study will comprise a large dataset that will be made available for other scientists and police to aid in sampling and interpretation of evidence under different case circumstances. 

Improving kinship analysis in multi-generation pedigrees

PhD candidate: Erik Francisco Bergseth

With recent developments and interests in forensic genealogy, it is more important than ever to understand the limits of kinship analysis.

The aim of this project is to improve and develop methods for kinship analysis combining developments in whole genome sequencing (WGS) and the evaluation of a new massive parallel sequencing (MPS) panel. As a start-up project, a set of old bones assumed to date back to 1742, will be used to determine the genealogical relation between ten living assumed relatives of the bones, with relations spanning 6-12 generations.