All-inclusive DNA analysis training keeps experts on the case—and future leaders in the pipeline

June 10, 2020
The kind of agencies that employ DNA analysts are also the kind that can’t afford to compromise their mission. Redirecting a seasoned analyst to train a new hire risks a slow-down in processing DNA samples—or exacerbating an existing case backlog. That’s why the National Forensic Science Technology Center at Florida International University helps eliminate those distractions.

“The pain point was you’re taking a new person coming in and having to match them with a trained analyst. And that analyst now is not doing casework,” says Kevin Lothridge, the Executive Director of NFSTC@FIU and the Director of FIU’s Global Forensic and Justice Center. “So, you’ve not only got a new trainee that’s not doing any casework—you have an experienced analyst now that has to go off cases.”

NSFTC@FIU prepares DNA analysts and technicians for the real challenges of the job.
NSFTC@FIU performs assessments and provides research and technology assistance to the justice and forensic communities. A key program is their training for professional DNA analysis. It’s an up-to-date course to prepare DNA analysts and technicians for the real workflows and challenges of the job.
NSFTC@FIU’s training materials were reviewed by a series of subject matter experts, meaning it’s standardized across the field. As a result, those who complete the program are qualified to perform work in compliance with National DNA Index System guidelines.

“You start with biological screenings and work your way through doing mock cases,” says Lothridge. “So, you have to learn all the principles, build upon the principles, learn all the equipment, and actually work on a mock case.” Their modular training can be purchased in full or as stand-alone coursework for DNA Analysis and other topics.

As part of this hands-on training, the NSFTC@FIU provides mock samples to go through the entire DNA analysis exercise. By offering these mock forensic sample kits, which are supplied by InnoGenomics Technologies, trainers expose budding DNA analysts to realistic forensic scenarios. The casework entails analysis of DNA from sources such as blood, semen, and saliva.
The samples include 2- and 3-person donor mixtures with highly specific ratios. NSFTC@FIU and InnoGenomics work closely together on quality control. And the kits’ scalability means that NSFTC@FIU can grow their program to whatever class size an agency needs.
“We’ve always used mock samples for training, but InnoGenomics’ has the most comprehensive set of samples of any that we’ve ever purchased and worked with,” says Lothridge. He explains that including these samples in a training bundle takes yet another major burden off their client organizations. The time that agency staff might spend on in-house training or sourcing anonymous samples is instead spent on their critical forensic work.
With technological innovation resulting in new and better forensic technologies, it’s important for the people training the next generation of DNA analysts to instill an understanding of best practices. Coursework must be regularly updated to reflect changes in the field. Fortunately, NFSTC@FIU has the solution. Their vision is for the forensic science community and the people it serves to have complete confidence in the science performed for the justice system.
“Hopefully, at some point in time, we’ll have enough trained forensic scientists that there is no backlog, which gives you a fair administration of justice,” says Lothridge. “It helps victims have resolution in their cases hopefully. And these are the future leaders of forensic science who are taking training like this.”

For more information on InnoGenomics’ customizable mock samples for competency testing, validation projects, and R&D studies, visit the InnoGenomics mock samples product page.

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