Research and Development

Dr. Bruce Budowle | Professor and CHI Executive Director

Dr. Bruce Budowle received a PhD 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's 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 forensic genetics/genomics in analytical development, population genetics, statistical interpretation of evidence, and in quality assurance. Dr. Budowle has worked on laying some of the foundations for the current statistical analyses in forensic genetics and defining the genetic parameters of relevant population groups. He has published more than 680 articles, made more than 800 presentations (many of which were as an invited speaker at national and international meetings), and testified in well over 300 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, forensic genetics, 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. Budowle's efforts over the past two decades 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. He was 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 developed forensic genomic applications.

Currently Dr. Budowle is the Director of the Center for Human Identification and Professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, Texas. His current efforts focus on the areas of human forensic identification, microbial forensics, and emerging infectious disease, with substantial emphasis in genomics and next generation sequencing. He is a Commissioner on the Texas Forensic Science Commission and a member or the Texas Governor's Sexual Assault Survivor's Task Force.

50 Heroes: Dr. Bruce Budowle

Michael Coble | Associate Professor and CHI Associate Director

Michael (Mike) Coble earned his PhD in Genetics from The George Washington University in 2004. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Coble was a NRC Postdoctoral Fellow and, later, a Research Biologist in the Biotechnology Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). He later moved on to The Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL), where he spent four years as the Research Section Chief. During his tenure at AFDIL, he assisted on numerous identifications, including the positive identification of two of the children of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. Dr. Coble later returned to NIST as a Forensic Biologist, where he worked until 2018, when he accepted the Associate Director position at the Center for Human Identification.

Since arriving, Dr. Coble has been instrumental in furthering the training efforts to reduce human trafficking by assisting on a grant from the US State Department to train forensic scientists in Central America. He also is assisting the Texas Department of Public Safety Forensic DNA Laboratory to provide analysts with supplemental training in likelihood ratios and probabilistic genotyping. His current research focuses on issues associated with DNA mixture interpretation and probabilistic genotyping methods of interpretation using software analyses. Other areas of research include haploid marker systems for forensic testing (mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome testing), and non-traditional marker systems (e.g. X-chromosomal STRs, insertion-deletion markers, etc.) to increase genetic information from challenged samples.

Jianye Ge | Associate Professor and CHI Associate Director

Jianye Ge received his BS and MS degrees in Computer Science from Nankai University, China. He earned his PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Cincinnati, and was employed as an Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He then took a position with the Human Identification Division (HID) of Thermo Fisher Scientific as algorithm leader and, later, as Global Market Development Manager.

Dr. Ge has returned to the Health Science Center and is an Associate Director at the Center for Human Identification. His research relates primarily to computational analysis and interpretation of DNA forensic data. The software programs he has developed have been used by federal and state government agencies to assist in solving criminal cases. He is currently working on projects that apply the latest development in artificial intelligence and genomics technologies to solve challenging problems in forensic science.

August Woerner | Assistant Professor

Dr. August Woerner received his PhD in Genetics from the University of Arizona in 2016, and has a PhD minor and M.S. in Computer Science (CS) from the same institution. August worked for a dozen years as the lead bioinformaticist in Dr. Michael Hammer's population genetics/genomics research group, all whilst completing undergraduate and graduate CS coursework. August considers himself to be a biologist who codes (instead of a computer scientist who interacts with biology). In general, he is interested in practical solutions to open problems in multi-omics, genomics, and forensic genetics. August has many research interests that vary from better computational approaches, to read mapping and DNA sequence alignment, to the application of machine learning models to make better predictions from the genome, as well as like models that reduce the appearance of noise in such systems.

August also cares deeply about fostering and teaching computational techniques to the next generation of biologists. Biologists are becoming ever-forced into handling, interpreting and understanding large datasets. Working with big data is challenging (as a matter of both practice and principle). He is an open proponent of borrowing from techniques in data science, especially data science as found in Hadley Wickham's tidyverse (, to make big data more tractable. With such approaches, rather than spending years honing one's computational and programming skills, less effort can be spent to obtain results that are correct (easy to say, hard to do), that scale to "big data", and are reproducible. While the theoretical ceiling of such approaches can be limited, the immediate benefits (a few months of training to get ~80% of what a proper undergraduate and graduate degree in CS might give) make for an excellent tradeoff between investment (time) and reward (real insight into one's experiment).

August also has open interests in purely computational problems, such as techniques for context-specific alignment (read-mapping), machine learning and introducing machine learning techniques that apply to datasets that are not "rectangular" and perhaps are even non-numeric (i.e., to data that are opaque).

Jennifer Churchill Cihlar | Assistant Professor

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 PhD in Biomedical Sciences, specializing in Human and Molecular Genetics, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UT Health 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 the Research and Development Unit at HSC'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 massively parallel sequencing for mitochondrial DNA analysis into CHI's Missing Persons Unit.

Magdalena Bus |
Assistant Professor and Associate Director of CHI Human Trafficking Program 

Dr. Magdalena Bus received her PhD from the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. In her official capacity, she is also the Associate Director of the CHI Human Trafficking Program through a U.S. Department of State grant, which is sponsored by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The primary purpose of the project is to address the human trafficking problem through forensics in Central America, with the current focus placed on Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Dr. Bus is also a part of the CHI team addressing domestic and local human trafficking issues in the State of Texas.

Dr. Bus has substantial experience with analyses of limited quantity and severely degraded DNA acquired from human remains found at crime scenes, existing museum specimens, and samples recovered from historical excavation sites. She has developed and optimized sensitive techniques for low copy number DNA analyses using various technologies such as Sanger sequencing, Pyrosequencing, and Massively Parallel Sequencing. She has collaborated with the Swedish police and the Swedish National Forensic Centre to examine highly degraded crime scene samples using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) during her work as a postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden. In addition, she has worked with DNA extracted from aged human skeletal remains found in mass graves and ancient samples dating back to the Viking-age. She obtained her expertise in DNA analyses through her work in Poland and Sweden in addition to visiting forensic and ancient DNA laboratories in Austria, Germany, and Denmark.

Angela van Daal | Research Scientist IV

Dr. Angela van Daal earned a PhD in molecular genetics from Macquarie University in 1986. Her research career spans 30 years and includes Drosophila, marsupial and human molecular genetics. She has extensive research capabilities in the area of forensic genetics, having researched the genetic basis of human physical appearance (pigmentation, face shape and features, and height), improved methods for low template DNA samples and enhanced recovery, and DNA analysis of degraded DNA samples.

An Australian native, Dr. van Daal was the first person in Australia to provide expert courtroom testimony on the PCR DNA typing methodology, and was integral in formulating the quality standards for DNA testing for forensic laboratories incorporated into the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation requirements of Australia.

A past Assistant Chief Scientist at the South Australian Forensic Science Centre and Professor of Forensic Science at Bond University, prior to joining HSC?s Center for Human Identification, Dr. van Daal conducted research at a variety of U.S. academic institutions, including two years at the Rockefeller University in New York and three years at Washington University in St. Louis.

Xuewen Wang | Research Scientist

Xuewen Wang received his Ph.D in Molecular Genetics from King's College London, University of London, United Kingdom, and obtained his Master's and Bachelor's degrees from College of Life Science at Peking University, China. He then conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Georgia. He worked as a leading scientist and leader of the China Tobacco Gene Center for National Tobacco Genome Project, a principle investigator at the Chinese Academy of Science, and later worked at an adjunct position with the University of Georgia and US Department of Agriculture for Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Service. He joined the Center of Human Identification at UNTHSC in June of 2021.

Dr. Wang's research focuses on bioinformatics and genomics at a large data scale with high performance computing facilities. He has rich experiences in next generation (2nd e.g. Illumina and 3rd, e.g. PacBio) sequencing (NGS) data analysis, especially for genome assembly, graph pan-genome, variants discovery, sequence comparison, population or single cell genomics, gene-trait associate, and integrated omics analysis of transcriptomes and metabolomes. He also developed many bioinformatic pipelines and several novel bioinformatic software, e.g. GMATA, to facilitate NGS data analysis and applied genomics. He has published more than 50 high impact research articles at Nature Biotech and Nature Communications etc., and his articles have been cited worldwide. He serves as an active reviewer and editor of more than 50 peer-reviewed academic journals.

He is currently working on projects that apply state-of-art technologies in bioinformatics and genomics to develop novel software and technology, to advance the research and service in human DNA identification with high-throughput sequencing, and to solve challenging problems in forensic science.

Meng Huang | Research Scientist

Meng Huang is a Quantitative Genetics Scientist with experience in the research fields of human genetics, animal breeding, and plant breeding. His research interests focus on the development of novel statistical analysis software, parallel computing, and big dataset analysis.

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 currently serves on the ISFG-recognized scientific working group (STRAND) and the editorial board of Forensic Science International: Reports. Jonathan's current research projects include bioinformatics, massively parallel sequencing, small amplicon markers, mitochondrial DNA sequencing, microbial forensics, and molecular medicine, just to name a few. When he is not working, Jonathan enjoys photography, gardening, and the culinary arts.

Melissa Muenzler | Research Associate

Melissa is originally from Austin, TX, and received her BS in Biology from Texas Tech University. She has no free time, due to her three children, but can quote the entirety of all four Toy Story movies. She enjoys working at the lab bench and takes great joy in a well-prepared library.

Amy Smuts | Research Associate

Amy moved to the R&D lab after spending 19 years in the Forensic Unit of CHI, where she performed DNA analysis on thousands of casework samples.  She has experience with autosomal and Y-STRs, as well as mitochondrial DNA.  Her extensive knowledge of forensic DNA testing comes in handy in R&D, where she is currently working on genetic genealogy and single cell projects.  

Amy likes reading, plays, dogs, concerts, tacos, movies, football, feminism, monkeys, sailing in tropical places, and collecting odd art. In her spare time you will likely find her lying on the couch, demanding that someone bring her food.

Bupe Kapema | Research Assistant

Bupe is originally from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. She graduated from the University of Zambia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology. Bupe later obtained her Master of Science degree in Forensic Science from Uppsala University in Sweden. Her research interests lie in forensic genetics, human identification techniques, next generation sequencing, ancient DNA, population genetics, and evolution. She spends most of her free time with family and friends, and enjoys baking and reading.

Benjamin Crysup | Postdoctoral Research Associate

Benjamin Crysup obtained BS degrees in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas. He then followed them up with a PhD in Scientific Computation from Florida State University, by doing methods development to speed up molecular dynamics simulations. Being a computational chemist might make him the odd man out in the lab, but a collection of interesting computational questions both draws his interest and leverages his talents. When he's not coding, he's writing, running, making mead/melomel, or working on one of his many side projects.

Sammed Mandape | Bioinformatician

Sammed Mandape has an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology, and a Master of Science degree in Bioinformatics from Indiana University-Indianapolis.

Sammed is invested in developing and optimizing bioinformatics workflows for massive parallel sequencing data, specifically, human nuclear and mitochondrial genome data from human forensic samples. His work focuses on using computational methods to identify unique markers for DNA fingerprinting. Sammed's experience includes supporting multiple research projects in the field of cancer, infectious diseases, and human microbiome profiling. Outside work, he likes to spend his free time hiking and exploring trails.

Allison Sherier | PhD Student

Allison Sherier currently is a PhD candidate at The University of North Texas Health Science Center, under the direction of Drs. Bruce Budowle and August Woerner at the Center for Human Identification.

In 2020, Allison received the National Institute of Justice Graduate Research Fellowship for her dissertation research titled, "Genetic distance to improve human identification from the skin microbiome". She completed her B.S. in Animal Science Biotechnology at Oklahoma State University while working in the biotechnology laboratory headed by Dr. Jennifer Hernandez-Gifford. She then continued her education at 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 MS 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 hiking, reading, volunteering with Cardigan Welsh Corgi National Rescue Trust, and spending time with her son, husband, and dogs. 

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