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Battelle Solvers

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Forensic Genomics Staff

Lindsay Catlin

Lindsay Catlin, Researcher

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Lindsay Catlin is bringing new genomic technologies to criminal forensic laboratories. A Researcher on the Battelle Applied Genomics team, she provides support for implementation of Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS) technologies for criminal investigation. 

Since joining Battelle in 2016, Lindsay has been primarily focused on an MPS implementation project for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (OBCI). OBCI is one of the first forensic laboratories in the nation to implement MPS for investigation of missing person cases. 

There are tens of thousands of missing person cold cases in Ohio alone. Traditional capillary electrophoresis (CE) DNA typing can be used to determine whether a DNA sample is a match for a sample in an existing database. However, they provide limited value for analysis of unknown samples or for highly degraded samples. MPS provides much richer genomic information, including clues as to phenotype (e.g. eye color, hair color, skin tone or facial characteristics), kinship and ancestry. It also provides higher resolution for analysis of degraded samples. This makes MPS especially promising for resolving missing person cold cases. 

Lindsay will provide direct support to OBCI in analyzing forensic samples using MPS technologies. 

“This work could bring closure for thousands of families waiting for answers in these cases,” she says. In the future, she hopes to expand on her work with OCBI to help other forensic labs implement new genomic technologies. She explains, “There is still a lot of work to be done to bring these technologies into regular use and expand their scope beyond missing person cases.”

In addition to her work with OBCI, Lindsay is working on a project for the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency (JIDO) to evaluate a rapid DNA processing technologies to be used in the field. 

Lindsay has devoted her career to the application advanced genomic technologies for criminal forensic investigations. Prior to coming to Battelle, she worked for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for New York City (NYC OCME). In her role as a criminologist, she provided DNA analysis to support a variety of criminal investigations, including sexual assault cases and missing person cases. She later served as a member of the NYC OCME Medical Examiner Special Operations Response Team (MESORT), a specialized unit trained to collect and analyze forensic evidence in mass casualty events. This role required specialized training in hazardous materials (HAZMAT), the Incident Command System and the National Incident Management System. Earlier in her career, she worked as a Forensic Scientist for the Columbus Division of Police. 

Her advanced training includes a certification in Molecular Biology from the American Board of Criminalistics. In addition to demonstrating in-depth expertise in forensic genomics and molecular biology, this certification requires candidates to have broad knowledge across many other aspects of criminology, including ballistics, forensic chemistry, anthropology and crime scene investigation. Lindsay holds an M.S. in Forensic Science from Marshall University and a B.S. in Applied Biology from Georgia Institute of Technology. 

She says, "I was drawn to forensics because I get to apply science to solve problems in the real world and make a difference in my community."

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Richard Chou

Richard Chou, Researcher

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Does deliberate gene modification leave telltale traces in the genome? Can protein signatures be used for forensic identification? Can you get fast, rapid gene sequencing in the field using a device the size of a cell phone?

Richard Chou, a Researcher on the Battelle Applied Genomics team, is working to find answers to these and other emerging questions in genomics. 

Over the last five years, Richard has investigated a wide range of questions for Battelle clients and for internal research and development projects. His past research spans molecular biology and genomics projects for agriculture, environmental science, forensics and biodefense. More recently, his work has been focused more exclusively on applied genomics. 

“Genomics is an exciting field right now because the technology has advanced so much,” he says. “We’ve really expanded the power of the information we are able to collect from genomic data. This has huge implications that cross over a lot of different fields, including forensic, environmental and medical research.”

Currently, Richard is studying the signatures left behind in the genome by the DNA editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. CRISPR/Cas9 is a gene splicing technique that allows researchers to precisely snip out individual genes from the genome and replace them with new gene sequences. It is already widely used for applications ranging from gene therapy to GMO foods. Richard and his team are trying to identify genetic markers that indicate that the genome has been modified with CRISPR/Cas9. The test could be used to determine if pathogens have been modified for bioterrorism. 

Richard is also working on a project to validate a hand-held genetic sequencer for forensic use in the field. The portable sequencer, known as the MinION, uses a unique membrane technology to enable real-time sequencing of DNA. It is already in use in academic institutions and research labs. Richard is conducting a study of the technology to validate its use for field forensic work. Once validated, it could be used to speed up forensic investigations for counterterrorism and homeland security. 

In addition to studying the genome, Richard’s current research is also focused on the proteome: the unique complement of proteins produced by an organism. Just as each person has a unique genome, each of us also has a unique proteome. These proteins may be a source of forensic information that could be used to confirm identity in cases where DNA is not present or degraded to analyze. Richard is investigating the use of proteins in hair (which is “rich” in protein but limited in DNA), for forensic identification. 

Richard holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Ohio University and an M.S. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from Wright State University. His interest in genomics was first sparked while working on research on aging, growth, obesity and diabetes at Edison Biotech as an undergraduate. His graduate research was focused on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. 

For the future, he sees tremendous growth potential for both forensic genomics and protein. However, he cautions that more validation work is needed to ensure that new sequencing technologies and analytical software provide reliable, accurate data. 

“That’s where I see myself spending a lot of time over the next few years,” he says. 

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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. 

Mark Wilson, Ph.D.

Mark Wilson, Ph.D., Forensics Research Leader

Dr. Mark Wilson, a noted genomics researcher with decades of experience in forensic science, has joined the Applied Genomics team as a Research Leader. Wilson will lead research and development for Battelle’s next-generation sequencing technologies, including ExactID®, and provide training and support for Battelle’s forensic clients.

Wilson began his career as an FBI Special Agent in 1984. He eventually moved from investigative fieldwork to the Laboratory Division, where he applied his background in molecular biology to trace evidence analysis. His early work with mitochondrial DNA led to new forensic techniques targeting trace and biological evidence such as hair and bone samples. His research project was the first in the U.S. to apply mitochondrial DNA analysis to applied forensic casework. “I’ve always been drawn to forensics. I love using science to its maximum utility and applying it to practical problems,” he says.

Following 9/11, Wilson’s focus shifted to microbial-based evidence, including casework related to toxins, bacteria and other potential microbial threat agents. He worked in the newly formed Chemical-Biological Sciences Unit of the FBI Laboratory until his retirement in 2007. Since then, he has worked in academic settings. Prior to coming to Battelle, he served as the Director of the Forensic Science Program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.  In this setting, he has been involved in the development of next-generation sequencing technology, also called Massively Parallel Sequencing, and its application to forensic evidence.

In his new role at Battelle, he will be focused on driving the adoption of next-generation sequencing technologies in crime laboratories. “These new technologies generate much more genetic data and present these data to the analyst,” he explains. “The sheer amount of data has implications for complex mixed samples and limited or degraded samples that are often encountered in forensic casework. These emerging technologies also allow analysts to obtain useful information about ancestry and appearance from DNA samples that do not produce a direct match in a database. By applying these techniques, forensic researchers can make progress on cases that were previously considered unsolvable.”

His future research will be focused on bringing new analytical techniques to forensics laboratories, including work on mitochondrial DNA and microbial forensics.  Some of these emerging technologies may allow forensic scientists to ascertain where in the world a person has been based on the distribution of microorganisms and pollen grains on their skin or clothing.  Wilson also sees potential for applying predictive analytics to forensic work.

Wilson holds a duel B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Azusa-Pacific College, an M.S. in Biology from California State University, Fullerton, and a Ph.D. in Biosciences from George Mason University. 

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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