an occasional publication
from the International Forensic Research Institute
at Florida International University

in this issue...


 

Local Makes Good

IFRI congratulates FIU alumnus, Carlos J. Díaz, winner of the South Florida Section of the American Chemical Society award for outstanding performance as a graduating senior with a BS in Chemistry and a Forensic Science certificate.

Díaz, a Miami native, had actually previously completed a BS in Criminal Justice from FIU, “but I knew I wanted to work in a forensics lab”, he explained, “so I continued straight on into the Chemistry/Forensics program.”

An internship with the Miami Dade Police Department Crime Laboratory as part of IFRI's Forensic Science certificate program helped lead the way to his current position as a forensic chemist with the US Drug Enforcement Administration's Southeast Laboratory.

Not that we needed to tell you Carlos is on the move, but we also learned that in addition to landing a great job, he recently married and is also renovating a new house. Carlos, best of luck and congratulations on all of your great news!

 

“I knew I wanted
to work in a forensics lab…” 

Carlos J. Diaz,
BS ‘04, BS ‘01

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Bugs and Forensics…but not what you think

Blowflies may reveal a thing or two about time of death of a decomposing body, but IFRI-affiliated biology professor Dr. Kalai Mathee is looking at a different kind of bug to yield forensic clues: bacteria. According to Mathee, “Forensics is largely about the hunt for evidence. There are more microbes in nature than we can culture and we’re on the chase to identify these bacterial communities… Think of us a microbe hunters.”

Pith helmet or not, one might wonder what a self-described “medical molecular microbiologist,” who is better known investigating how bacterial mutations lead to adverse events in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients is doing in the burgeoning field of microbial forensics. Mathee believes you can use any model system to teach forensic biology provided you train students in the variety of tools of molecular biology and allow them the latitude to troubleshoot difficulties. In this case, she and her forensic science graduate students have chosen CF as a model system. Together with a profiling technique introduced by her former post-doc, Dee Mills, who now runs IFRI’s DNA fingerprinting facility, the group is on to some tantalizing results. The microbial flora in the sputum in these patients may serve as unique identifiers, analogous to how other forensic evidence, such as DNA and fingerprints, possesses individual characteristics.

In another project, in collaboration with Dr. Jose Almirall, Mathee is profiling the bacterial flora of a variety of soil samples. With elemental analysis provided by the Almirall group, a database is being developed to determine whether soil evidence, which is more commonly considered to have class characteristics, can have unique and semi-permanent characteristics under the right analysis.

Whatever her line of inquiry, the affable, peripatetic Mathee always seems to be having a good time. And with a wink, she adds, “to those who think they can get away with the perfect crime, the bugs you don’t see may just be your undoing!”

 

“ Forensics is largely about the hunt for evidence.” 

Dr. Kalai Mathee

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Murder She Wrote

Celebrated crime writers Edna Buchanan and Aphrodite Jones made a guest appearance at FIU in May for an IFRI sponsored seminar entitled, “Crime writing in the city: Fact, Fiction, and Forensics”. Regarding the departure from typical IFRI seminar fare, IFRI's program manager, Doug Heller, noted, “We felt it would be fun and informative to see how forensics plays out in the world of popular literature by these two extremely lively personalities.”

Indeed, both authors chronicled the painstaking research that goes into getting the forensic details correct in their storytelling. Ms. Jones revealed behind the scenes details from the Michael Peterson murder case, the subject of her latest book, A Perfect Husband, and Ms. Buchanan gave a humorous and touching account of the almost cartoonish degree to which truth co-opts fiction in the world of Miami crime. She also emphasized, “Getting the science right in my fiction writing allows me to retain my ‘poetic license'.”

And in a related story, Edna Buchanan, who serves on IFRI's Advisory Board, has been making the rounds this summer promoting her latest, Cold Case Squad, which has included stops at CBS' The Early Show and NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. We understand she's mentioned IFRI in the course of her interviews, to which we nod our hats and say, “Thanks for the press!”

 

 

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And coming in the next issue ...

IFRI Welcomes….

and

A Dog ‘Nose' Best

Until then, be thinking of us!

 


IFRI Contact

PH (305) 348-6211
Fax (305) 348-3772
E-mail: IFRI@fiu.edu

 

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