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Battelle Solvers

We have some of the best employees working to solve the world’s most difficult challenges. 

Forensic Genomics Staff

Dr. Gene Godbold

Dr. Gene Godbold, Senior Scientist

Dr. Gene Godbold spends a lot of time thinking small. He’s helping Battelle use advanced genomic methods to improve our understanding of all kinds of microbes, from dangerous pathogens to oil-metabolizing bacteria. His research enables Battelle’s clients to address difficult challenges such as tracing the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations and identifying bacteria with environmental remediation potential.

Gene is a senior scientist on Battelle’s Applied Genomics team, where he focuses on bioinformatics projects in microbial genomics. He brings more than twenty years of research experience with particular expertise in the mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis, bacterial antibiotic resistance, immunology, biocuration and biochemistry. Since joining Battelle in 2002, he has also investigated problems in mammalian neuropharmacology, human performance, toxicology and immunology.

His current work in Applied Genomics is helping to advance the use of genomic methods, including Massively Parallel Processing (MPS), to study microbial populations. “The holy grail is to be able to take a biological or environmental sample, accurately identify what microbes are in it, and determine both what they are currently doing and what they could be doing by analyzing their genomes and the proteins they are expressing,” he explains. Gene’s research is helping to bring this vision closer to reality.

Whole-genome sequencing allows the entire genome of every species present in a sample to be explicated. Making sense of that data in the past has taken weeks to months of time. Using carefully curated databases of known microbial sequences, new bioinformatics technologies are able to identify the species present or their closest known relatives. These analyses enable researchers to rapidly identify sequences for specific traits such as antibiotic resistance, virulence or the ability to metabolize substances such as hydrocarbons or other chemicals. Recognizing these sequences tells us what the microbe has the potential to be able to do. Analysis of the proteins the microbe is expressing can tell us more about what it is actually doing. For example, a genomic analysis may tell researchers that a certain bacterium has the genetic potential to be able to metabolize oil. Analysis of the bacterial populations and proteins in an environmental sample can confirm whether or not oil metabolism is actually taking place.

Gene is applying these methods to study the genes for antibiotic resistance and virulence. In 2013-2014, he led the team that developed Battelle’s CRITERIOME™ software, an innovative bio-sequence characterization program that identifies the potential for drug resistance in bacteria based on their genetic sequences. Along with Dr. Boyu Yang, he holds a patent for “Custom Knowledgebases and Sequence Datasets” related to the development of the software.

Jocelyn Bush

Jocelyn Bush, Forensic Genomics Researcher

Battelle’s Jocelyn Bush is on the front lines of next-generation forensics. A Forensic Genomics Researcher on Battelle’s Applied Genomics team, Jocelyn is working to help forensic laboratories implement the latest DNA technologies.

Jocelyn has devoted her career to forensic science, with a particular focus on applications of next-generation sequencing (NGS) for forensic investigation. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology with a focus on microbiology and molecular biology from Portland State University, and a Masters of Science in Forensic Science from Virginia Commonwealth University. Prior to joining Battelle in January 2015, she spent several years working with the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL). She helped provide whole mitochondrial genome sequences to a worldwide mitochondrial genome database that now gives the research community access to high quality data for studies involving mitochondrial DNA. She also evaluated and optimized NGS methods for use in highly degraded DNA samples in order to identify the remains of soldiers from World War II and the Vietnam and Korean Wars. 

Jocelyn is now applying her expertise to evaluate NGS methods and technologies for use in forensic laboratories. She provides training and subject matter expertise to help laboratory personnel integrate NGS into their workflows and quality systems. As part of her work, she is supporting a Battelle-led National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study to evaluate different methods of NGS in academic, research, federal, state and local forensic labs across the country.

Dr. Trevor Petrel

Dr. Trevor Petrel, Director of Advanced Technology Development

The Battelle Applied Genomics team is pleased to welcome Dr. Trevor Petrel in his new position as Director of Advanced Technology Development. In this role, he will be focused on finding new applications for Battelle’s applied genomics technologies and identifying the most promising avenues for future research. 

Trevor has worked for Battelle since 2001, most recently serving as the Director of Internal Research and Development within the National Security business unit. His trans-disciplinary training and experience have positioned him to take on this lead technical role at Battelle, and particularly for the multifunctional Applied Genomics team. 

Much of Battelle’s work in genomics to date has been focused on forensic and criminal justice applications. Trevor sees continued work ahead to expand Battelle’s offerings in this area, but also plans to look for new opportunities beyond this limited, but well-defined market. In particular, he hopes to explore potential applications for human health and diagnostics. He also sees applications for environmental surveying and monitoring. 

Trevor brings more than two decades of combined laboratory and experimental design experience, including nearly 15 years supporting chemical and biological defense research. He has experience in leading-edge technical thrusts such as sensor development, biomaterials and surface chemistry, and is a subject matter expert in biomolecular formulation and drug delivery technologies. He has authored more than a dozen publications and abstracts, in addition to numerous presentations, patents and technical reports. He holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Sara Nitcher

Dr. Sara Nitcher, Principal Research Scientist

Are there novel genetic markers that can be used for more precise subject identification in forensic investigations? How can we know if a particular microbe carries the genes for resistance to an antibiotic? These are just a few of the questions Dr. Sara Nitcher has tackled for Battelle’s clients.

A biochemist by training, Sara now serves as a Principal Research Scientist on the Battelle Applied Genomics team, where she supports research and development projects for forensic and non-forensic applications of genomic technologies. Her current projects include evaluating technologies for metagenomic identification of microbes in environmental samples and identifying the best methods for homogenizing various types of biological samples. She also supports Battelle’s research into Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies for forensics, including identification of new markers that could lead to more accurate and precise identification of subjects. 

Previously, she was heavily involved with the development of CRITERIOME, an innovative bio-sequence characterization program developed by Battelle. CRITERIOME allows for rapid and accurate identification of microbes along with predictions of antibiotic resistance based on the presence of specific genetic sequences. Rather than waiting days for clinical cultures to grow and be tested for antibiotic resistance, samples can instead be subjected to NGS and the sequences evaluated with CRITERIOME to determine whether or not they have genes associated with resistance to particular antibiotics. CRITERIOME also provides users with a listing of the drugs for which the identified genes confer resistance against, as well as a report of the microorganisms present within the sample. Sara helped to develop the knowledge base in the domain of antibiotic resistance and a curated data set with more than 250,000 nucleotide sequences that the program uses to identify resistance factors. In addition, she helped to develop the user requirements and specifications for the software. 

In the future, Sara plans to continue to support Battelle’s NGS forensics and molecular genomics work. She hopes to focus on using molecular tools to develop better medical diagnostics.

Prior to joining Battelle in 2011, Sara completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia, where she led an independent research project studying enzyme structure, function and interactions using Xenopus laevis embryos. She also served as Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Piedmont Virginia Community College. She holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and an M.S. in Biological and Physical Sciences from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in Biochemistry from the University of Kansas. 

Outside of work, Sara is heavily involved in mentorship and support for young women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. She has helped to coordinate forums for middle and high school girls interested in STEM careers and co-founded the Women in Mathematics and Science organization at the University of Virginia. She served on the Battelle Women’s Network Membership and Outreach Subcommittee. 

Dr. Craig Bartling

Dr. Craig Bartling, Senior Research Scientist

Dr. Craig Bartling is unlocking the secrets contained in proteins to shed new light on problems ranging from pathogen identification to forensic analysis. He is working to find new applications for proteomics for medical diagnostics, intelligence, law enforcement and environmental management. 

A Senior Research Scientist on Battelle’s Applied Genomics team, Craig is leading efforts to expand Battelle’s metagenomics and proteomics capabilities. He brings more than 14 years of research experience with a particular focus on protein analysis. While his background is in biochemistry, his scientific expertise spans many areas, including genomics, proteomics and protein characterization, environmental monitoring, structural biology, molecular biology, mass spectrometry, enzyme kinetics, biological and chemical threat characterization and assay development.    

His current research is largely focused on practical applications of proteomics, or the study of protein expression by cells, systems and organisms. Each organism has unique proteome that can potentially be used to provide diagnostic or forensic information (See Proteomics: The Next Big Thing in Forensic Identification?) Craig and his team have worked on a number of projects exploring the potential of proteomics for forensic, environmental and medical purposes.

Recent or current project include:

  • Sample analysis to determine whether specific proteins can be used to identify the presence of pathogens and toxins for intelligence purposes
  • Development of standardized procedures for protein-based human identification purposes
  • Analyzing proteins in environmental samples to measure the activity of microbes that are used to degrade contaminants in environmental restoration projects
  • Development of novel methods to identify antibodies, which could be used for intelligence or medical purposes
  • Analyzing proteins produced by genetically modified crops to determine which genes are being expressed in order to facilitate product FDA approval

In addition to his proteomics work, Craig is currently applying his expertise to examine the ways that advanced technology could be used to model the potential consequences of different kinds of bioterrorism threats. He has also been the Principal Investigator for various formulation projects and on a forensic project that identified epigenetic markers to age individuals from forensically relevant samples. Craig was also part of a team that pioneered a new process for producing small protein particles, for which the team holds a patent. He helped develop the process in order to facilitate the creation of biologic therapies, which require the ability to concentrate large quantities of proteins in a small volume for drug delivery.

His next projects are likely to be focused on protein forensics and antibody sequencing. He is continuing to look for new and better ways to sequence proteins and improve mass spectrometry-based analytical methods for proteins. He will be heavily involved in helping Battelle develop standardized methods for sample preparation and analysis for forensic proteomics.

Craig holds a B.S. in Biochemistry from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Duke University. Prior to joining Battelle in 2009, he completed post-doctoral research at The Ohio State University, where he continues to teach graduate classes in biochemistry and related fields. 

Richard Guerrieri, M.S.

Richard Guerrieri, M.S., Forensics Research Leader

Richard is an internationally known scientist in the field of human identification, and court recognized expert witness with more than 250 testimonies who has established the nation’s largest capacity and highest throughput DNA database testing laboratory. Richard has more than 30 years of forensic laboratory experience, including nearly 20 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory.

Christine Baker, M.S.

Christine Baker, M.S., Forensics Genomics Technical Lead

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has the potential to revolutionize DNA forensics—but only if it makes the leap from theory to practice in working forensic laboratories and in the courtroom. Principal Research Scientist Christi Baker plays a key role in helping government agencies integrate the latest NGS technologies into their laboratory processes and validating methods for the criminal justice system. 

Christi oversees the technical teams who are helping agencies get up and running with NGS technologies. Under her guidance, the Battelle Applied Genomics team works with agencies to select or develop NGS test kits, develop and validate laboratory workflows, set up analysis pipelines and train laboratory personnel on the new methods. She is currently working on technology translation projects with multiple U.S. government clients. Her team is also deeply involved with a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study to evaluate NGS technologies, reagents, software and methods at seven partner forensic laboratories. 

Christi has been with Battelle since 2010, and brings 15 years of experience in genetics and genomics. She has served as Principal Investigator for a number of internal and external research and development programs and has led multiple large-scope projects in support of the federal government. This includes the development of custom amplification products for forensically relevant SNP, as well as STR and mtDNA panels for NGS in collaboration with the Promega Corporation. Ms. Baker’s research also involved the development of a non-alignment bioinformatics method for typing SNP markers, which ultimately was incorporated into Battelle’s NGS analysis software, Battelle ExactID®. She holds a B.S. in Genetics from the University of Georgia and an M.S. in Biology from the University of Virginia.

Moving forward, she sees a need for further work in developing solutions for storing and searching the large data sets produced by NGS as well as new methods for analyzing complex mixed samples. More validation research is also needed to ensure that the evidence produced by NGS analysis is admissible in court.

Mike Dickens

Mike Dickens, General Manager

Mike has expertise in biological sciences ranging from molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry research to applied industrial fermentation and bioprocessing. His experience includes managing research programs in biological threat agent characterization, detection and analysis, including biological threat agent microbial forensics.

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