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Elena Zavala

Elena Zavala

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329 Whitmore Lab
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 863-6758


Hello! My name is Elena Zavala and I am originally from Seattle, Washington but have most recently been living in California. I graduated from Santa Clara University in 2010 with a B.A. in music and a B.S. in Biochemistry. After graduation I interned at a microscopy and forensic consulting lab where I worked on a research project investigating the products of cotton pyrolysis in various weather conditions. From 2011 to 2013 I served as an education volunteer with the U.S Peace Corps in Burkina Faso, West Africa. After completing my service, I worked as a chemist for Ion Torrent in the San Francisco Bay Area. I decided to return to school in order to continue towards my goal of working to apply forensic science techniques to international human rights cases. A key component of this work is the application of next generation sequencing to identification of missing persons and human remains. The opportunities to do research in this area and the hands-on nature of the program is what lead me to Penn State.

Research Interests

My research will be focused on the extraction and recovery of small fragments of nDNA to be used for SNP analysis. This will improve the capacity for investigators to identify damaged and old skeletal remains. I will be working on this project with Dr. Holland's research group.