Molly Rathbun Travels to Croatia
This past June I traveled to Croatia with Dr. Holland, my P.I., and Laura Wilson, another master’s student in our research group. Our first stop was to the Split, one of the largest cities in Croatia and home of the University of Split. While there we put on a forensic DNA mixture interpretation workshop with the help of representatives of two mixture interpretation software, ArmedXpert and STRMix. The purpose of the workshop was to share interpretation methods we use here at Penn State and are generally used throughout U.S. crime labs with students at the University of Split and analysts working at various crime labs in Croatia such as the Zagreb crime lab. Laura and I prepared example case profiles and presented them as a hands-on demonstration with both softwares. In the end the workshop went very well and I had a great time meeting the DNA analysts from Croatia and learning about their methods for interpreting complex mixture profiles.
Our next stop was to Bol, which is on one of the many islands of Croatia (there are over 700!). But before we left the city, we made stops to experience some of Croatia’s rich history including archaeological sites, amazing food, met the Mayor of Split, and climb to the top of the bell tower of Diocletian’s palace! As much fun as I had in Split, we had to leave and get on the ferry to Bol for the 9th Conference on Forensic and Anthropologic Genetics and Mayo Clinic Lectures on Individualized Medicine, which is held every two years by the International Society for Applied Biological Sciences (ISABS). I learned so much from the different presentations about new technologies and methods for topic such as missing persons and familial DNA searching, recovering ancient DNA, and even growing human organs! It was very exciting to be exposed to so many different topics and learn about other studies that will help me in my own research project. In fact, during the conference I was able to give a poster presentation on my research that I have been working on with Dr. Holland and Dr. McElhoe. This was very helpful for me to share preliminary results with other members of the forensic community and get their feedback on our work. While at the conference I also had time to explore the beach with Laura and other classmates from Penn State while also meeting new friends.
For my first time traveling abroad, I would definitely say this trip was a success. I met so many amazing leaders in the forensic field, learned all about current research in forensic science, tried lots of new foods (shark and wild boar!), and saw some beautiful history. By the end of my week in Croatia I had many new experiences I will never forget, and I am very grateful to Penn State, the Forensic Science Program, and especially Dr. Holland for making this opportunity possible!