Date of Award

Spring 6-1-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forensic Science



First Advisor or Mentor

Richard Li

Second Reader

Andrew Schweighardt

Third Advisor

Mark Desire


In forensic science, DNA extraction can be a tedious and resource-intensive process. Extraction with Proteinase K is an industry standard but has its drawbacks, such as requiring multiple ionic detergents and washing steps. MicroGEM has developed a new enzyme called forensicGEM that is temperature-dependent and compatible with mesophilic enzymes, offering complete DNA extraction in about 20 minutes in a single tube, limiting contamination, loss of sample, and working time. ForensicGEM can extract DNA from highly degraded samples, potentially leading to more complete STR profiles. Highly degraded tissue and bone samples were collected and extracted with the forensicGEM kit, altering different parameters to assess the efficiency and potential uses of forensicGEM. The STR profiles of samples extracted with forensicGEM were compared to those extracted with a standard organic extraction. Half of the degraded samples extracted with forensicGEM had detectable DNA, with the highest success rate observed for bone samples. Success with bone profiling was notable given that there was much less sample input for forensicGEM (10 mg) compared to the organic extraction (2 g). The forensicGEM kit yielded a 22-locus and a 15-locus profile on two highly degraded samples from the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. The bone preparation method of scraping yielded higher DNA quantities and better-quality profiles compared to samples treated with the standard method of milling. Future work will focus on further investigation of the bone scraping method and continued optimization of experimental parameters in the MicroGEM extraction protocol.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.