Joseph Reiner, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Physics, and Michael Valle, a graduate student in the Department of Forensic Science, operate an optical tweezer to separate cells in a forensic sample. (Photo by Thomas Kojcsich, University Marketing)

How Lasers Might Help Solve Sex Crimes

Forensic science and physics researchers at VCU are studying how “optical tweezers” could address one of crime labs’ biggest challenges.

When potential DNA evidence — say, from a sexual assault case — is submitted to a forensic lab for analysis, the scientists are often faced with the time-consuming challenge of sorting out which DNA profile came from the victim and which came from the criminal.

“Forensic scientists have to spend a lot of time on the back end of the analysis portion trying to deconvolute which DNA profile came from which person at each genetic locus,” said Tracey Dawson Cruz, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Forensic Science in the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Humanities and Sciences. “This has been historically one of the most challenging problems in forensic DNA.”

A new process being developed by VCU forensic science and physics researchers might make the process easier.

VCU News has the full article.

(Photo by Thomas Kojcsich, University Marketing)