Why isn't DNA analysis a silver bullet for solving crimes?

Dr Georgina Meakin

As the science improves, we can detect smaller and smaller traces of DNA. Does that mean we could pin someone to a crime scene who was never there at all?

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We think of DNA evidence as something objective. Reliable. Immutable. If someone's DNA is found at a crime scene, that means they were definitely there, right?

Well, not always. As our techniques for detecting and analysing DNA evidence become ever more sophisticated, we've gained the ability to identify smaller and smaller samples. But now the samples we can identify are so small that they may have been transferred to the scene not by the person the DNA belongs to, but by someone or something else they were in contact with. For forensic investigators, it's more important than ever for them to consider all the possible ways a piece of DNA evidence might have arrived at a crime scene. Context is everything.

Our fabulous Fellow Dr. Georgina Meakin joins us in The Garden for an exploration into how science could place you in the middle of a crime scene you were never at, that you'll find equal parts fascinating and terrifying. Georgina explains why there are no easy answers when it comes to DNA (despite what the TV shows might tell us).

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35 minutes

About the Fellow

Dr Georgina Meakin

Dr Georgina Meakin is a senior lecturer at the UTS Centre of Forensic Science. She investigates the transfer, persistence, prevalence and recovery of DNA and other trace evidence. She is particularly interested in the indirect transfer of DNA.