Promega Tech Tour 2016: Preview of a Fascinating DNA Crime Story

“Is your life just like CSI?”

That is the prevailing question I’m asked when someone learns of my occupation as Deputy Sheriff Criminalist for the Contra Costa County (CA) Office of the Sheriff. Alas, my life is not quite so glamorous. It actually often entails entering formulas into an excel spreadsheet while being placed on hold as I order some pipette tips.

But, why does it have to be that way?

crime sceneI have attended my fair share of professional conferences and workshops and written numerous journal articles. As a forensic scientist I do believe in the importance of sharing data, new techniques, and new methodologies with my colleagues. Yet what I think is not highlighted enough is the one element that differentiates our field from any other scientific field—our involvement with the criminal justice system.  Every case we work on involves a mystery, a crime, a victim(s), and a suspect(s).  And while scientists in other fields typically only speak to other scientists, in my world, forensic scientists usually interact with a person in a black robe who has the power to strongly influence the outcome of a case.  These wildly frustrating, invigorating, and challenging cases are the most interesting things about our field, and yet we hardly share our stories.

I aim to change that.

I have been fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the 2016 Promega Tech Tour on April 12 at the CA Department of Justice Jan Bashinski DNA Laboratory in Richmond, CA.  The story I plan to share is about the small part I played in the case against Joseph Naso, the serial killer who preyed upon his victims from the 1950’s through the 1990’s in California. Continue reading “Promega Tech Tour 2016: Preview of a Fascinating DNA Crime Story”