Criminalistics Section News – July 2017

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.

Sources: Vincent J. Desiderio, Jr., MS, Section Chair, and Kristy Kadash, PhD, Section Secretary

First and foremost, this opportunity should be taken to thank several individuals who have been critical contributors to the success of our section over the past year. A debt of gratitude is owed by our current Chair to our immediate Past Chair, Kary Tontarski, who did an amazing job of guiding our section through 2016 and into 2017. Her dedication to and leadership within our field in general and our Section in particular has been nothing short of exemplary for many years. Her integrity as a forensic practitioner and member of this organization sets an example that we all should follow. Thank you, Kary, for your service!

Next on the list of folks that deserve a great deal of credit for our recent successes is our 2017 Criminalistics Program Chair and Current Section Secretary, Kristine Kadash, who, along with past Co-Chair, Patrick Buzzini, put together an incredible Criminalistics Program in New Orleans (more on this below). Kristy has certainly set the bar high, but there should be great confidence from our membership that Patrick and his Criminalistics Program Co-Chair, Noelle Umback, will build on Kristy’s success to provide what will surely be a must-attend Criminalistics Program in Seattle, WA, next February. Our section is fortunate to have such a dedicated team working to ensure that the Criminalistics offerings consistently provide high-quality content to our membership and the forensic community at large.

We should be thankful to have such an engaged membership. The level of involvement exhibited by our members gives us what can only be seen as an embarrassment of riches. Our volunteer coffers are simply overflowing with dedicated members who contribute to the success of our operations as presenters, moderators, abstract reviewers, judges, liaisons, and meeting volunteers. It is evident that you all care a great deal about what you do and are heavily invested in a bright forensic future. Thank you all!

For those who missed it, our 2017 Criminalistics Program was, hands down, one of the best programs offered in recent memory. The sessions, diligently assembled by Kristy and Patrick, included 215 fantastic oral and poster presentations scheduled Wednesday through Saturday. The Program Committee hopes that everyone in attendance enjoyed all the sessions. The Criminalistics Session I was book-ended by two prestigious panels. In keeping with the 2017 AAFS theme, “Our Future Reflects our Past,” the Thursday morning session focused on the way criminalistics has evolved over the decades and the challenges that face the field in the future. For those attendees fortunate enough to stay to the end, the Saturday morning session discussed effective crime lab management and leadership. The sessions in between covered new developments in laboratory techniques in drug chemistry, firearms analysis, latent print comparisons, and all types of trace evidence examinations. These included a critical emphasis on black box-white box studies, which are receiving much attention these days. The Criminalistics Session II was concentrated on topics within forensic biology, including new approaches to body fluid identification, interpretation of next generation sequencing data, statistical methods, and sexual assault kit processing. There was a lively discussion on effective DNA testimony during the Friday morning panel session. This year, the Friday night Criminalistics “Believe it or Not” session was an official part of the program and consisted of peer-reviewed submissions. The presentations demonstrated fascinating applications of forensic science to the investigation of Italian mummies, silk forgeries, pollution of food storage facilities, chemical reactions in mixed medical prescriptions, and a reconstruction of the crash of Flight MH17 in the Ukraine. Overall, the sessions went off smoothly thanks to the efforts of the speakers, moderators, abstract reviewers, meeting volunteers, and, of course, the attendees.

If you couldn’t make it to New Orleans, don’t worry as Patrick and Noelle are already hard at work putting together a must-attend program for the 2018 meeting in Seattle. There will be more information coming soon, so be sure to keep an eye on the AAFS News Feed for some critical Criminalistics Program-related information. What will be noted at this point, however, is the fact that the August 1 deadline is just a few short weeks away. The number of submissions has been increasing over the last few years, so be sure to cross your “t’s,” dot your “i’s,” and get your abstract in on time. Any effort that you can expend to make our reviewers’ jobs easier will increase your chances of having an abstract accepted.

Speaking of the need to keep an eye out for upcoming News Feed articles, it is realized that our feed has been quiet for a little while. To make up for this slow start, we are planning a very strong finish. With this in mind, we will be releasing a series of discipline-specific updates interspersed with general Criminalistics Section updates over the next few months. In the spirit of keeping things open and transparent, if there are any specific questions you may have or a topic you would like addressed in some fashion, please feel free to reach out to Section Chair Vincent Desiderio at