Molly Rathbun Travels to Texas
On October 12th – 15th I attended the 26th International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI) held in Grapevine, TX. This annual conference covers a range of forensic DNA topics from specific case studies to the new laboratory technologies such as probabilistic genotyping software solutions. The keynote speaker for the conference was Kirk Bloodsworth who is the first man in the United States to be exonerated by DNA evidence. Despite his experiences with the legal system he was very encouraging to the audience by reminding everyone how powerful forensic DNA analysis can be. Attending the ISHI conference was a great experience because I learned a lot about the current topics concerning forensic DNA analysis while also meeting wonderful people in field.
On the first day of the conference I attended a workshop titled “Analyzing and Utilizing Data from Next-Generation Sequencers in the Forensic Genomics Era”. The workshop covered many possible applications of next-generation sequencing (NGS) such as advancing mixture profile interpretation, mitochondrial (mt)DNA analysis, and molecular autopsy. The workshop also involved a bioinformatics session introducing the audience to NGS data analysis. NGS has become a very real possibility to forensic labs and this was reflected in the increased number of speakers, posters, and exhibits targeting this area. In fact, I was able to stop by the Illumina exhibit where you can build a Lego MiSeq!
Also, later in the week I presented a poster on my research project, “Assessing the impact of DNA damage on the interpretation of low-level heteroplasmy.” I enjoyed the opportunity to share my research and get feedback in the form of questions that were asked. When I was not presenting I to visited other posters. There was a wide variety of topics that included new research areas and very current applications.
I’m very glad I was able to attend this conference! I will be able to use what I learned as I complete my current research and as I think about future opportunities. I would like to thank Penn State and the Forensic Science Program for helping to support my trip, my P.I., Dr. Holland, for advising me on my research project, and my classmates, Laura Wilson and Katelyn Gigl, for being such great travel buddies!