Celebrating Student Research

Celebrating Student Research

Presented at the 2018 NEAFS Meeting in Bolton Landing, NY
October 23rd–27th – The Sagamore Resort

Students: Niti Dalal and Patrick McLaughlin, Mentor Mechthild Prinz
Study: Optimizing a method for DNA recovery while preserving latent prints on paper

The evidence in criminal cases like kidnapping, extortion and bank robberies often consists of handwritten paper documents where both latent print processing and DNA collection are important. This project tested a workflow, where adhesive tape and dry swabs were used to remove DNA from the surface of the paper without destroying the fingerprint pattern underneath. With a higher DNA yield and better success rates for fingerprints, tape was more suitable than swabs. Tape DNA collection even worked after latent prints had been made visible through fluorescent powder. 

Graduate student Niti Dalal pictured in front of her poster

Presented at 2016 NEAFS Annual Meeting in Atlantic City. New Jersey
October 12th - 16th – Harrah’s Resort and Casino

Students: Melissa Branker, BSc; Jennifer Rosati, PhD
Study: The importance of resource quality and species interactions
on the colonization behavior of the black blow fly, Phormia regina (Meigen).

Within minutes after death, the process of decomposition occurs, which modifies the morphology and structure of a corpse (Campobasso et al, 2001). During decomposition, there are a wide variety of insect groups that arrive and utilize carrion with a distinct pattern of insect succession (Campobasso et al, 2001).  There are many forensically important Dipteran species that are known to colonize a decomposing carcass during the early stages of decomposition, which include the families of Calliphoridae (blow flies), Sarcophagidae (flesh flies) and Muscidae (house flies). Within the first few hours post-mortem, blow flies are known to have high levels of recruitment to the resource (Campobasso et al, 2001).  As a result, blow flies are commonly used as indicators to determine the minimum time of colonization (MTC); which can be helpful in post-mortem interval (PMI) estimations.  However, the colonization behavior of these indicator species can be influenced by a variety of factors including oviposition preference (Campobasso et al, 2001), pheromone cues (Yang and Shiao, 2012, Akol et al 2013), bacterial cues (Lam et. al 2007, Zheng et al 2013) as well as inter- and intra- specific interactions. (Giao and Godoy, 2007, Yang and Shiao, 2012). This research utilized two forensically relevant blow fly species: Lucilia sericata (Meigen) and Phormia regina (Meigen) to examine the effects of resource quality and species interactions on the oviposition behavior of blow flies. We hypothesize that both resource quality and the presence of L. sericata eggs will alter the colonization behavior of P. regina.

Team Rosati pictured in front of Melissa's poster on Forensic Entomology
(Graduate students Melissa Branker, Vincent Nappi, and undergraduate Veena Mehta)

54th Annual Meeting of TIAFT
Brisbane, Australia
August 28th – September 1st, 2016

Student: Briana Miller
Study: Stability of Synthetic Cathinones in Preserved Oral Fluid Specimens

Dr. Nikolas Lemos wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his graduation from John Jay with a master’s degree in Forensic Science, and honor his late mentor, Professor Agarwal by sponsoring a current graduate student to attend the 2016 meeting of TIAFT, to be held in Brisbane, Australia. Briana Miller was that lucky student and she had the opportunity to present her paper on “Stability of Synthetic Cathinones in Preserved Oral Fluid Specimens”.


Presented at the American Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction Training Conference
2016 in Clark, New Jerey

Students: Tara Goldfrank; Peter Diaczuk, PhD
Study: Critical Angle Determination & Angle of Ricochet on Windshield Glass 

Bullet trajectories are a critical element in crime scene reconstruction.
This study explores the variability of ricochet angles specifically for
windshields since shooting events often include vehicles.

Presented at the Eastern Analytical Symposium and Exposition,
2014 in Somerset, NJ

Students: Kristi Tami; Gloria Proni, Phd.
Study: Spectroscopic Characterization of Organophosphate Compounds

Most commercially important insecticides and lethal chemical warfare agents belong to the category of organophosphate compounds. Their mode of action is related to the accumulation of acetylcholine at the synapses that culminates in respiratory failure and neurological damage. We are investigating the toxicity of selected organophosphate compounds in respect to their structures' spatial differences.

Presented at the 66th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Association of Forensic Science, 2014 in Seattle, WA.

Students: Theron Ng-A-Qui, B.S.; Bruce Eng, J.D.; Shu-Yuan Cheng, Ph.D.
Study: Extraction process efficiency study of cathinones by solid phase extraction

This study explored current limitations when dealing with synthetic drugs. Despite the increased availability of designer drugs, few studies have focused on the analytical extraction techniques for their detection and quantification in biological samples. With solid phase extraction (SPE) being the most commonly used technique for sample preparation, it is important to know the rate at which the target substances are being recovered. The results indicate that the Strata X Drug B SPE extraction was able to recover higher percentage of cathinone and mephedrone at medium (100 ng/ml) and high (500 ng/ml) concentrations, but not at low (10 ng/ml) concentration.

Presented ath the 2013 NEAFS Annual Meeting
September 25th – 28th, 2013, in Cromwell, CT

Student: Laura Pritchard
Study: Establishing a method to determine the Statistical Value of Fiber Evidence

Recent MS-FOS graduate Laura Pritchard presented her poster on "Establishing a method to determine the Statistical Value of Fiber Evidence". Dryer lint from 14 dryers was collected to show that each crime scene can be unique. A sample from each was mounted on its own microscope slide and then analyzed with a polarized light microscope. Color, cross sectional shape, parallel refractive index, perpendicular refractive index, dichroism, and birefringence of each fiber in the sample sets were captured and data were analyzed using Fisher’s Exact test. Her mentor for this project was Professor John Reffner.