Laboratory Faculty & Staff
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Faculty and Staff
Director, UNT Center for Human Identification
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. Budowle’s 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.
Associate Director, UNT Center for Human Identification
Michael (Mike) Coble earned his Ph.D. 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 NIST as a Forensic Biologist where he worked until 2018 when he accepted the Associate Director position at the UNT 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. His current research focuses on issues associated with DNA mixture interpretation and probabilistic 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.
Research Assistant Professor
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.
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.
Sammed is from Kolhapur, a city that resides along mountain ranges in western India. He has an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology. He then graduated with a Master of Science degree in Bioinformatics from Indiana University Indianapolis in 2014. His research interests are focused on designing and implementing analytics pipeline for high-throughput data, developing methods for integrating data from a range of sources, and building tools. He likes to spend his leisure time with his pets or reading books or learning new programming language.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Hailing from Pondicherry, a sleepy coastal town (of Life of Pi fame) in southern India, Utpal’s formal training in biology began with a MSc in Ecology from Pondicherry University in 2008. He then graduated with a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2016. His doctoral training primarily involved using computational methods to investigate questions in molecular ecology using a combination of macro – and micro-evolutionary approaches.
As a postdoctoral research associate at UNTCHI, Utpal will help with creating the Mitochondrial Mixture Database and Interpretation Tool (MMDIT) – a bioinformatic pipeline for deconvoluting mitochondrial DNA mixture and using computational phylogenetic and population genetic methods on human microbiome data to leverage them as a forensic tool.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Benjamin Crysup obtained his BS degrees in chemical engineering and computer science (UT). He then followed them up with a Ph.D. in scientific computation (at Florida State) 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 (check out my book), running, making mead/melomel or working on one of his many side projects.
Melissa is originally from Austin, TX and received her Bachelors in Biology from Texas Tech University. She has no free time, due to her two children, but has an extensive knowledge of My Little Pony trivia.
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.
Allison Sherier is a PhD candidate at the University of North Texas Health Science center. 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 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.
Research Track Masters Student
Gemma is a second year Masters of Medical Science student completing an independent research project in Dr. Budowle’s lab. Her research involves testing the efficacy of the Rapid DNA Testing in the forensic setting. She completed her B.S. in biochemistry at the University of Texas at Dallas in 2016. After the completion of her independent research project, she hopes to attend medical school. When Gemma is not at school or in the lab, she spends her free time binge watching Netflix, eating take out, and taking naps.
Research Track Masters Student
Natalie Colón is a Masters of Medical Sciences student completing a year of independent research in Dr. Budowle’s lab. Her research will involve studying the variability in heteroplasmy present in mitochondrial multiple sample sites. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Biology from Southwestern University. In her free time, Natalie enjoys playing with her dog, Finn, volunteering, hiking, and binge-watching the Office for the billionth time.
Visiting Research Scholar
This page was last modified on July 10, 2019