Forensic Science

National Center for Forensic Science

The National Center for Forensic Science (NCFS), a program of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), is housed at the University of Central Florida. NCFS was formed in 1997 to serve the forensic science, investigative, and criminal justice communities and to enhance their capabilities. The NCFS has close working relationships with UCF’s Forensic Science, Computer Science, Engineering, and Criminal Justice Programs. It is also involved in partnerships with the FBI, BATF, the U.S. Secret Service, and various state and local agencies.

Current Forensic Science Research

Forensic Biology

Forensic Biology is the study of blood and other physiological materials as it relates to establishing legal investigations. UCF’s Biology Evidence research (in conjunction with NCFS) includes: Y-STR analysis, mRNA analysis, repair of DNA, and Forensic Biometrics.

  • Y-Chromosome STR (Y-STR) in Operational Use: Speedy Rape Kit Analysis: We have developed the capability of typing 19 Y-STR loci in two multiplex systems, MPI and MPII, and have completed a full SWGDAM developmental validation of the MPI and MPII systems.
  • Detection of RNA Expression in Biological Stains: In the mess and confusion of a crime scene, the origin of a particular stain is not always apparent. Until recently all body-fluid identification testing was expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. Now stains can be discerned quickly, accurately, and efficiently using mRNA analysis.
  • Low Copy Number (LCN) Analysis: This project is concerned with the investigation of potential strategies for analyzing samples containing low copy number (LCN) DNA templates. We are investigating ways that the DNA template could be DNA profiled, including whole genome amplification and single cell methods.
  • In Vitro Repair of Damaged DNA: The aims of this project are to ascertain the types of DNA damage encountered in forensically relevant stains and to attempt to repair such damage by means of in vitro DNA repair systems.
  • Forensic Biometrics: The purpose of this project is to determine, from DNA/RNA, the physical characteristics from an individual depositing a particular biological stain at a crime scene.
  • Mitochondrial Analysis by Pyrosequencing: Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis is often used in forensic cases in which traditional nuclear DNA is unsuccessful. The goal of this project is to evaluate a novel sequencing technology, pyrosequencing, for its potential applicability to forensic casework.

Fire, Arson & Explosives

Our current efforts include understanding ignitable liquid vapors in fire debris samples, discoving new methods of explosives analysis, and the development of new laboratory and field test methodologies to improve forensic analytical capabilities and field safety.

  • Ignitable Liquids Database: The NCFS researchers now have the largest Ignitable Liquids Reference database in the world; it contains chemical signatures for over 400 liquids. The database is a searchable resource for forensic science laboratories.
  • “Fingerprinting” Explosives: The type and origin of the explosive are two of the most important questions addressed in a bombing investigation. NCFS researchers are examining trace impurities from explosive debris in order to find explosives’ “fingerprints.”

Physical Evidence: Fibers & Glass

Trace evidence often plays an important role in criminal cases.

  • Fiber Analysis: Fiber trace evidence often plays an important role in criminal cases. Individualization of fibers and the discrimination between questioned and known samples is facilitated by a molecular-level analysis of the fiber dye composition.
  • Glass Analysis: Modern methods of forensic glass analysis have turned to the use of laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). We are investigating a far less expensive alternative to forensic glass analysis through the use of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS).
  • Selective Sampling Materials: It has been estimated that as much as 80% of an analysis time involves sample preparation. We are making use of molecular-imprinting techniques to develop new materials and devices for selective sampling against a background matrix.

Digital Evidence

Digital evidence is any information of probative value that is either stored or transmitted in a binary form. This field includes not only computers in the traditional sense but also includes digital audio and video. It includes all facets of crime where evidence may be found in a digital or binary form. (SWGDE 1998) The most heard about is perhaps child pornography, but computers are also instrumental in crimes ranging from check fraud to conspiracy to commit murder. Digital forensics involves the identification, collection, preservation, examination, and analysis of digital evidence. It is a technical, computer-related field involved in the collection and examination of evidence from computers, including audio, video, and graphical images. Current research at UCF includes: identifying trace evidence of secure removal tools, identifying applications that leave cryptographic keys in RAM, and Digital Forensic Examiner Proficiency Test