The Uses of DNA Technology in Forensic Science
Timothy Banas has a master's degree in biophysics and was a high school science teacher in Chicago for seven years. He has since been working as a trading systems analyst, standardized test item developer, and freelance writer. As a freelancer, he has written articles on everything from personal finances to computer technology. Forensic science involves the use of scientific procedures to gather evidence related to matters of the law. The cells of all organisms contain deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and the DNA of any one organism is unique. Forensic scientists have learned to collect and analyze DNA to help determine which organisms--humans as well as other kinds--were present at the scene of a crime or catastrophe. DNA can be used to accomplish a number of specific goals in forensic investigations. Identifying Individual Persons
* Because each person's DNA sequence is unique, it can be matched to him like a fingerprint. According to the U.S. government's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, forensic scientists use DNA evidence to identify persons in criminal and paternity cases. DNA evidence does not always identify a suspect or a man as being the father of a child; sometimes the forensic evidence exonerates a suspect or determines that a man is not the father of a child. DNA evidence can also be used to identify victims of catastrophes, such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Identifying Species of Animals
* There are laws governing the conservation and hunting of endangered species. If someone is suspected of illegally capturing and transporting an endangered species, forensic scientists can use DNA analysis to confirm or rule out whether the animal specimen in question in fact belongs to the protected species. A few hair or skin cells from the animal will suffice to yield accurate test results, so a suspected animal transporter or hunter does...