Faculty & Staff
Dr. Bruce Budowle, Professor & Executive Director
Dr. 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 Cihlar, PostDoc
Jennifer Churchill is currently a Research Assistant Professor at UNT Health Science Center’s Center for Human Identification. Jennifer received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University. Her undergraduate research at Texas A&M involved the application of molecular genetic technologies to the study of population and conservation genetics of the North American bison. Jennifer earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences specializing in Human and Molecular Genetics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Her dissertation work focused predominantly on the use of linkage and next-generation sequencing technologies to identify novel autosomal dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa genes. Jennifer currently works with Dr. Bruce Budowle’s group at UNTHSC’s Center for Human Identification. Her research focuses on the development and application of human identification genetic marker analyses with massively parallel sequencing technologies including the validation and implementation of MPS for mitochondrial DNA analysis into UNTHSC Center for Human Identification’s Missing Persons Unit and Forensic Unit.
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.
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.
Magdalena Bus, Postdoctoral Research Associate
Validation & Training Manager and Lead of the Reducing Human Trafficking through Forensics in Central America project
Magdalena received her Ph.D. in Poland. During her Ph.D. study, she worked with DNA collected non-invasively in the field and wild animals’ population genetic data. She is experienced in analyses of a limited quantity and severely degraded DNA from human and animal samples collected non-invasively in the field, from museum specimens, at crime scenes, or historical excavation sites. During her postdoctoral research at Uppsala University in Sweden, she was focused on the analysis of DNA from forensic and historical samples. The main objective of her research was to develop highly sensitive assays for analyses of challenging samples (e.g., human skeletal remains from a Swedish warship that has been in seawater for over 300 years, or ancient samples from excavations of Viking-age graves). Magdalena has substantial expertise in developing and optimizing sensitive techniques for low copy number DNA analyses such as Sanger sequencing, Pyrosequencing, and Massively Parallel Sequencing. Recently, she graduated from a postgraduate course Substantive and Procedural Criminal Law at Jagiellonian University. Currently, she is focused on the population genetics and massively parallel sequencing data analyses. She is interested in history and criminal law. Her free time she spends with her family and friends.
Utpal Smart, Postdoctoral Research Associate
Utpal received his Ph.D. from University of Texas Arlington in 2016 in Herpetology and joined the Woerner Lab in August of 2018.
Bing (Sunny) Song, Ph.D. Candidate
Sunny is a first 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.
Rachel Kieser, 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.
Allison Sherier, Ph.D. Student
Allison Sherier is a PhD student at the University of North Texas Health Science center. She completed her M.S. in Animal Science Biotechnology at Oklahoma State University while working in the biotechnology laboratory headed by Dr. Jennifer Hernandez-Gifford. She then continued to Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, OK where she received the National Science Foundation Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship. She completed her M.S. in Forensic Science – Molecular Biology while working under the direction of Dr. Robert Allen on degradation of semen specific mRNA markers. When she is not studying, Allison enjoys photography, hiking, reading, volunteering with Cardigan Welsh Corgi National Rescue Trust, and spending time with her husband and dogs.