Research and Development Laboratory
Laboratory Faculty & Staff
Bruce Budowle, Professor
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.
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 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 and the culinary arts.
Bobby LaRue, Assistant Professor
Bobby LaRue earned his PhD at the University of North Texas in 2010. His dissertation focused on the stress experienced by metazoans in low oxygen environments and the cell signaling pathways used to ameliorate the damage caused by these conditions. In 2010 he was awarded an Intelligence Community postdoctoral fellowship. His current research interests include small amplicon markers for human and tissue identification including SNPs, small INDELs, LINEs and SINEs, and methylation patterns. His ultimate goal is to be able to improve typing of degraded and low quantity samples. When not in the lab, Bobby enjoys spending time with his family and being outside.
Jennifer Churchill, PostDoc
Jennifer Churchill is a Postdoctoral Research Associate from Belton, Texas. She graduated in 2009 from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. Jennifer received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences where she specialized in Human and Molecular Genetics. Her Ph.D. work focused on the use of linkage and next-generation sequencing technologies to identify novel autosomal dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa genes. Following her Ph.D. defense in December 2013, Jennifer joined Dr. Bruce Budowle’s lab as Postdoctoral Research Associate in January 2014. Her work will focus on forensic applications of massively parallel sequencing. When not in the lab, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
Angie Ambers, PostDoc
Dr. Angie Ambers received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of North Texas (UNT) with an emphasis in forensic genetics and human identification. Her dissertation involved an investigation of methods (e.g. whole genome amplification, DNA repair) for improving autosomal and Y-STR typing of degraded and low copy DNA from human skeletal remains and environmentally-damaged biological materials. Dr. Ambers also has master's degrees in Forensic Genetics from the University of North Texas Health Science Center and in Criminology from the University of Texas at Arlington. Her thesis research involved developing and optimizing a DNA-based multiplex screening tool for the separation of fragmented and commingled skeletal remains. Since 2005, Dr. Ambers has been an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas (teaching Genetics, Heredity, and Human Anatomy and Physiology). In 2008 she developed the curriculum for a course in Forensic Molecular Biology, in which she teaches DNA analysis/methodology to undergraduate students enrolled in the FEPAC-accredited forensic science certificate program. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Dr. Ambers was lead DNA analyst and lab manager of UNT's DNA Sequencing Core Facility, and during that time had the opportunity to work on various ancient DNA projects involving archaeological specimens from Greenland. Her latest work has involved DNA testing of various historical human skeletal remains, including those of an American Civil War guerrilla scout, several Finnish World War II soldiers, and unidentified late-19th-century skeletal remains discovered in Deadwood, South Dakota. Dr. Ambers is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the IAG, specializing in characterization and identification of historical and archaeological human skeletal remains.
Carey Davis, Ph.D. Candidate
Carey Davis is a Ph.D. 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.
Sarah Schmedes, Ph.D. Candidate
Sarah is a native Texan and originally from Austin, TX. She graduated in 2007 from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Microbiology. In 2009 she graduated with a Master of Science in Forensic Biology from SUNY Albany. While pursuing her master’s degree, Sarah completed an internship at the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON under the direction of Dr. Hendrik Poinar. Sarah’s work contributed to a project focused on isolating and identifying Yersinia pestis as the causative agent from 14th-century Black Death Victims. The project resulted in a publication which was featured on the cover of Nature in October 2011. Upon completion of her master’s degree, Sarah became employed at the Institute of Applied Genetics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) in Fort Worth, TX and worked on various research projects involving human forensic DNA analysis and tick-borne disease research. In August 2011, Sarah joined the Forensic Genetics PhD program in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics at UNTHSC. Sarah is currently a 3rd year PhD student studying under the direction of Dr. Bruce Budowle. Sarah’s research focus is in microbial forensics and metagenomics. In her free time Sarah enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing a good board game.
David Warshauer, Ph.D. Candidate
David Warshauer is a Ph.D. student from Lubbock, Texas. Though he was born in the United States, he spent the majority of his youth in Saudi Arabia. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Lubbock Christian University, where he earned the Dean's Award for most outstanding academic performance in the College of Professional Studies. David also holds a Master of Science Degree in Forensic & Investigative Genetics from the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He is presently performing a validation of mitochondrial DNA analysis using the PLEX-IDTM mass spectrometry instrument, as well as investigating the transfer of saliva-based DNA. At present, David's primary focus is the use of Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS) for the detection of forensic STRs and SNPs. To this end, David has developed tools for the analysis of STRs from raw MPS data (STRait Razor). David currently lives in Fort Worth with his wife, Cortney, and their two miniature dachshunds.
Xiangpei Zeng, Ph.D. Candidate
Xiangpei Zeng is a second year PhD student in Dr. Budowle’s lab at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He was born in China, and received his medical degree from medical school of Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou, China) in Forensic Medicine. He continued to study in Sun Yat-sen University and received his Masters Degree in Forensic Genetics under the guidance of Dr. Hongyu Sun on the application of X-STRs in Chinese populations. Xiangpei moved to USA in 2011 and spent one year in the Department of Biology at University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) as a PhD student. In August 2012, He joined the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics at UNTHSC and continued his study in Forensic Science. His primary research focus is the application of ancestry informative markers in Forensic Genetics using massively parallel sequencing technology. He likes reading and traveling when he is free.
Nicole Novroski, Ph.D. Student
Nicole is a first year PhD Student under the guidance of Dr. Bruce Budowle at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. She was born and raised in Canada, and completed her Bachelors Degree in Forensic Science and Biology at the University of Toronto. She then worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Northern Alberta before moving on to the University at Albany, SUNY to complete her Masters Degree in Forensic Molecular Biology. Following graduation in 2011, Nicole spent some time at the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner Department of Forensic Biology as a Criminalist and left in 2013 to pursue her studies at UNTHSC. Her current research focus is in pharmacogenetics using massively parallel sequencing. When she isn't studying, Nicole enjoys running, reading, volunteering, and spending time in Canada with family and friends.
Monika Stoljarova, Visiting Scientist
Monika, the only Estonian in our team, is a Master’s student of Genetic Engineering at Tallinn University of Technology. She received her BSc in 2012 after defending her thesis researching genetic material of green algae species in order to establish a suitable genetic barcoding system. Shortly after came a change in her field preference and gotten inspired by her supervisor she decided to jump into forensic genetics. Therefore, she took a year off her studies to come to Texas and Dr. Budowle’s lab in October 2013 to complete a year-long internship. Although she is a helping hand in a variety of lab projects as her goal here is to learn learn and learn more, her main project is based on the use of massive parallel sequencing. When she is not qPCR'ing, she loves travelling, sports and salsa limon tacos.
Rachel Wiley, Ph.D. Student
Rachel is a first 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 in Biochemistry from the University of North Texas in May 2012. She continued her education in Washington, DC as she earned her Masters of Forensic Science in Forensic Molecular Biology at The George Washington University. While attending GWU, she interned with the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) at the Washington DC Field Office serving as the Cold Case/Fraud/Forensic Intern. Her current research focuses on the development of a multiplex system sequencing the complete mitochondrial genome through the utilization of “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.
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 of DNA 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), travelling and cooking.
Frank Wendt, Ph.D. Student
Frank is a first year Ph.D. student doing a rotation in Dr. Budowle’s lab at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and received his Bachelors degree in forensic science with a concentration in biology from the Pennsylvania State University in 2013. While at Penn State, his research with the forensic science department was focused on the validation of rapid-DNA analysis technologies and assessment of massively parallel sequencing capabilities for forensic samples. Currently, his research focuses on assessing a sample library preparation and target enrichment kit from Agilent Technologies. When Frank isn’t in the lab, he enjoys cooking, reading, exercising, and a variety of outdoorsy activities.
Bing Song (Sunny), Ph.D. Student
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 haplogroups, more specifically haplogroup 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.