Dr. Bruce Budowle, Professor & Executive Director
About BruceDr. Bruce Budowle received a Ph.D. in Genetics in 1979 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. From 1979-1982, Dr. Budowle was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Working under a National Cancer Institute fellowship, he carried out research predominately on genetic risk factors for diseases such as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, melanoma, and acute lymphocytic leukemia.From 1983-2009, Dr. Budowle worked at the FBI Laboratory Division to carry out research, development, and validation of methods for forensic biological analyses. Dr. Budowle has contributed to the fundamental sciences as they apply to forensics in analytical development, population genetics, statistical interpretation of evidence, and in quality assurance. Some of his technical efforts have been: 1) development of analytical assays for typing a myriad of protein genetic marker systems, 2) designing electrophoretic instrumentation, 3) developing molecular biology analytical systems to include RFLP typing of VNTR loci and PCR-based SNP assays, VNTR and STR assays, and direct sequencing methods for mitochondrial DNA, and 4) new technologies; and 5) designing image analysis systems. Dr. Budowle has worked on laying some of the foundations for the current statistical analyses in forensic biology and defining the parameters of relevant population groups. He has published more than 490 articles, made more than 580 presentations (many of which were as an invited speaker at national and international meetings), and testified in well over 250 criminal cases in the areas of molecular biology, population genetics, statistics, quality assurance, and forensic biology. In addition, he has authored or co-authored books on molecular biology techniques, electrophoresis, protein detection, and microbial forensics. Dr. Budowle has been directly involved in developing quality assurance (QA) standards for the forensic DNA field. He has been a chair and member of the Scientific Working Group on DNA Methods, Chair of the DNA Commission of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, and a member of the DNA Advisory Board. He was one of the original architects of the CODIS National DNA database, which maintains DNA profiles from convicted felons, from evidence in unsolved cases, and from missing persons. Dr. Budowles efforts over the past decade also have focused on counter terrorism specifically efforts involving microbial forensics and bioterrorism. Dr. Budowle was involved directly in the scientific aspects of the anthrax letters investigation and has been one of the architects of the field of microbial forensics. He has been the chair of the Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics (hosted by the FBI), whose mission was to set QA guidelines, develop criteria for biologic and user databases, set criteria for a National Repository, and develop forensic genomic applications. He currently serves on other government working groups related to microbial forensics. He also has served on the Steering Committees or been a co-organizer for the Colloquia on Microbial Forensics sponsored by American Society of Microbiology, Microbial Forensics Meetings, hosted by DHS, held at The Banbury Center in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and a meeting on Microbial Evolution and Cutting Edge Tools for Outbreak Investigations, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has published a number of articles (see below) on microbial forensics on topics such as attribution, quality assurance, population genetics, next generation sequencing technology, and sample collection. His current efforts at UNTHSC continue to focus on the areas of human forensic identification, microbial forensics, and emerging infectious disease.
Jonathan King, Laboratory Manager
Jonathan King is originally from North Carolina but has lived in Texas long enough to be considered a naturalized Texan. He received his MS from Tarleton State University in 2009 with a research focus in capturing novel polymorphic Indels from agricultural pathogens. He has been the laboratory manager for the research and development lab since March 2011. Jonathan’s current research projects include massively parallel sequencing, DNA repair, small amplicon markers, mitochondrial sequencing, novel DNA extraction techniques, and molecular medicine, just to name a few. When he is not working, Jonathan enjoys photography, gardening, and the culinary arts.
Jennifer Churchill, PostDoc
Jennifer Churchill is a Postdoctoral Research Associate from Belton, Texas. She graduated in 2009 from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. Jennifer received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences where she specialized in Human and Molecular Genetics. Her Ph.D. work focused on the use of linkage and next-generation sequencing technologies to identify novel autosomal dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa genes. Following her Ph.D. defense in December 2013, Jennifer joined Dr. Bruce Budowle’s lab as Postdoctoral Research Associate in January 2014. Her work will focus on forensic applications of massively parallel sequencing. When not in the lab, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
Angie Ambers, PostDoc
Dr. Angie Ambers received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of North Texas (UNT) with an emphasis in forensic genetics and human identification. Her dissertation involved an investigation of methods (e.g. whole genome amplification, DNA repair) for improving autosomal and Y-STR typing of degraded and low copy DNA from human skeletal remains and environmentally-damaged biological materials. Dr. Ambers also has master’s degrees in Forensic Genetics from the University of North Texas Health Science Center and in Criminology from the University of Texas at Arlington. Her thesis research involved developing and optimizing a DNA-based multiplex screening tool for the separation of fragmented and commingled skeletal remains. Since 2005, Dr. Ambers has been an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas (teaching Genetics, Heredity, and Human Anatomy andPhysiology). In 2008 she developed the curriculum for a course inForensic Molecular Biology, in which she teaches DNA analysis/methodology to undergraduate students enrolled in the FEPAC-accredited forensic science certificate program. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Dr. Ambers was lead DNA analyst and lab manager of UNT’s DNA Sequencing Core Facility, and during that time had the opportunity to work on various ancient DNA projects involving archaeological specimens from Greenland. Her latest work has involved DNA testing of various historical human skeletal remains, including those of an American Civil War guerrilla scout, several Finnish World War II soldiers, and unidentified late-19th -century skeletal remains discovered in Deadwood, South Dakota. Dr. Ambers is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the IAG, specializing in characterization and identification of historical and archaeological human skeletal remains.
Maiko Takahashi, PostDoc
Maiko was born and raised in Japan, and received her B.S.in pharmaceutical science and pharmacist license. Maiko worked for 10 years at the Criminal Investigation Laboratory of Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department as a forensic scientist where she completed over 2,000 cases ofDNA typing for crime investigation. She earned her Ph.D.in Forensic Medicine from the University of Tokyo during the duty in TMPD. She now aims to develop novel methods that useful for forensic casework at UNTHSC. Her current research focus is the mixture DNA analysis using massively parallel sequencing technology. In her free time, Maiko enjoys boarding airplanes (just as a passenger), traveling and cooking.
Xiangpei Zeng, PostDoc
Xiangpei Zeng is a second year PhD student in Dr. Budowle’s lab at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He was born in China, and received his medical degree from medical school of Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou, China) in Forensic Medicine. He continued to study in Sun Yat-sen University and received his Masters Degree in Forensic Genetics under the guidance of Dr. Hongyu Sun on the application of X-STRs in Chinese populations. Xiangpei moved to USA in 2011 and spent one year in the Department of Biology at University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) as a PhD student. In August 2012, He joined the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics at UNTHSC and continued his study in Forensic Science. His primary research focus is the application of ancestry informative markers in Forensic Genetics using massively parallel sequencing technology. He likes reading and traveling when he is free.
August Woerner, Research Assistant Professor
August is a bioinformatics wiz. A true Perl in our eyes. If you R looking for someone to help you, he’s got better than a C+ rating on Yelp. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his children, a hot cup of Java, and wrestling Pythons.
Carey Davis, Ph.D. Candidate
Carey Davis is a PhD student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. She completed her B.S. in biochemistry at the University of Virginia while working in the pathology department laboratory headed by Dr. Dennis Templeton. She then continued to Virginia Commonwealth University and received her M.S. in Forensic Science while working under the direction of Dr. Tracey Dawson Cruz on low copy number analysis. Since her arrival to UNTHSC, she has worked on many projects including: low copy number techniques, Y-STR development, and STR variant analysis. Her main research focuses on molecular autopsy and employing next generation sequencing techniques to the world of forensics. In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving, traveling, and working as a volunteer firefighter.
Sarah Schmedes, Ph.D. Candidate
Sarah is a native Texan and originally from Austin, TX. She graduated in 2007 from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Microbiology. In 2009 she graduated with a Master of Science in Forensic Biology from SUNY Albany. While pursuing her master’s degree, Sarah completed an internship at the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON under the direction of Dr. Hendrik Poinar. Sarah’s work contributed to a project focused on isolating and identifying Yersinia pestis as the causative agent from 14th-century Black Death Victims. The project resulted in a publication which was featured on the cover of Nature in October 2011. Upon completion of her master’s degree, Sarah became employed at the Institute of Applied Genetics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) in Fort Worth, TX and worked on various research projects involving human forensic DNA analysis and tick-borne disease research. In August 2011, Sarah joined the Forensic Genetics PhD program in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics at UNTHSC. Sarah is currently a 6th year PhD student studying under the direction of Dr. Bruce Budowle. Sarah’s research focus is in microbial forensics and metagenomics. In her free time Sarah enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing a good board game.
Nicole Novroski, Ph.D. Candidate
Nicole is a fifth year PhD Candidate under the guidance of Dr. Bruce Budowle at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. She is native to Canada, where she completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science and Biology at the University of Toronto. She then worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Northern Alberta before moving on to the University at Albany, SUNY to complete her Master’s Degree in Forensic Molecular Biology. Following graduation in 2011, Nicole spent some time at the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner Department of Forensic Biology as a Criminalist and left in 2013 to pursue her studies at UNTHSC. Her current research focus is in STR mixture de-convolution using massively parallel sequencing. When she isn’t studying, Nicole enjoys running, reading, volunteering, and spending quality time with her husband Lindsay and great dane Hank.
Rachel Wiley, Ph.D. Candidate
Rachel is a fourth year Ph.D. student currently rotating in Dr. Budowle’s laboratory at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. She grew up in Texas and received her Bachelors of Science inBiochemistry from the University of North Texas in May 2012. Shecontinued her education in Washington, DC as she earned her Mastersof Forensic Science in Forensic Molecular Biology at The GeorgeWashington University. While attending GWU, she interned with theNaval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) at the Washington DCField Office serving as the Cold Case/Fraud/Forensic Intern. Hercurrent research focuses on the development of a multiplex systemsequencing the complete mitochondrial genome through the utilizationof “mini” amplicons. When she is not hitting the books or spending time with family and friends, she likes watching sci-fi movies, reading, gaming, and dancing.
Frank Wendt, Ph.D. Candidate
Frank is a fourth year Ph.D. student doing a rotation in Dr.Budowle’s lab at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and received his Bachelors degree in forensic science with a concentration in biology from the Pennsylvania State University in 2013. While at Penn State,his research with the forensic science department was focused on the validation of rapid-DNA analysis technologies and assessment of massively parallel sequencing capabilities for forensic samples. Currently, his research focuses on assessing a sample library preparation and target enrichment kit from Agilent Technologies. When Frank isn’t in the lab, he enjoys cooking, reading,exercising, and a variety of outdoorsy activities.
Bing Song (Sunny), Ph.D. Candidate
Sunny is a fourth year Ph.D. student doing a rotation in Dr.LaRue’s lab at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. She earned her bachelor degree of biological science at Fudan University, China. She used to study and work in Dr. Li Jin’s anthropology key laboratory, focusing on the research of ancestry information from Y chromosome haplo groups, more specifically haplo group N.Now she is researching on the identity of the Indel polymorphism in massively parallel sequence data and is going to design new panels for the human identification and ancestry information.
Rodrigo Moura Neto, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar
Graduated in Biological Sciences, at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Master and Doctorate in Biological Sciences (Biophysics) by UFRJ. He completed postdoctoral studies at the Institute for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, USA. He is currently an Associate Professor at the Institute of Biology at UFRJ. He has experience in Genetics, with emphasis on Human Molecular Genetics, working mainly on the following topics: Forensic Genetics and Use of Polymorphic Molecular Markers for Population Studies. He coordinated the implementation of the DNA Laboratory of the Civil Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro, training 200 Criminal and Legal Experts, the physical construction of the laboratory, implementation of the equipment and directing the activities for three years. He received honors and prizes from the Military Command of the East and the 1st. Division of the Army for services rendered, Professional Merit offered by the Institute of Chemistry of UFRJ and by the Regional Council of Biology. He is also Collaborating Researcher of the Metrology Division applied to the Science of Life, of Brazilian Metrology Institute – Inmetro.
Rosane Silva, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar
Rosane Silva, born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, is graduated in Biological Sciences –at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro after three years at Fox Chase Cancer Center, US. She is an Associate Professor at the Instituto de Biofisica Carlos Chagas Filho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After a 30 years career, she decided to spend a year in this lab for her sabbatical. Her scientific interests are molecular genetics, functional genomics, microbial, and genetic aspects of the host and the pathogen. Also enjoys spending time with family, travel, and art.
Isadora Mello, Ph.D. Student & Visiting Scholar
Isadora is a PhD student working at Dr Bruce Budowle’s Lab as a visitor scholar. Originally from Rio de Janeiro – Brazil, she graduated in Biological Sciences (Bachelor in Genetics) and received her Masters degree in Biological Sciences (Biophysics) at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Currently her research is focused in X chromosome epigenetic markers of age and the development and validation of STR-X markers. On her free time, she let her “geekness” out and likes to play video-games, watch series, and dance.
Victor Dias, Ph.D. Student & Visiting Scholar
Victor is a Brazilian Ph.D. student from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) doing a internship in Dr. Budowle’s Lab at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He graduated in biological sciences with a bachelor’s degree in genetics at UFRJ in 2013. He has done his master’s degree in Biotechnology and since then his research is focused on the molecular detection of agents of bioterrorism. In his free time, Victor likes to go to the movies, watch series, play video game, cook, play some sport, and be at home.