Forensic Applications of DNA


This module involves the review of various techniques and research used in a forensic DNA laboratory from sample receipt, extraction and replication to analysis and interpretation . The students will work their way through a DNA practical using their own samples, making use of the learned techniques. New research and techniques will also be looked at within forensic DNA analysis.


The aim of this Module is to provide the student with the ability to critically evaluate current thinking and research in forensic DNA analysis as well as to fully understand the procedures and analysis performed within a modern forensic DNA laboratory.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Compare and contrast past, present and future techniques used in DNA profiling

2.  Have a critical understanding of STR and sexing PCR systems, which are used by many countries including the UK to generate sizeable DNA profiles using coloured dye and laser technology.

3.  Assess the benefits and pitfalls of using DNA profiling data relating to crime scenes, criminal investigations and identification of human remains

4.  Distinguish between the specialist techniques such as mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis, Y-STR analysis and the scientific basis of familial database searching

5.  Appraise new developments & ongoing research areas eg linking physical characteristics to DNA, detection of forensically important SNPs or identify body fluids using nucleic acid analysis

Indicative Content

1 DNA structure, genetics, molecular biology

Occurrence and distribution of unique, middle and highly repetitive DNA fractions. Hypervariable fraction and its exploitation in forensic science

2 Background to DNA profiling

Alec Jeffreys - minisatellite DNA - first use of DNA profiling - progress through the 1980's, 90s, 00s - Multilocus DNA profiling (MLP) - Single locus probes (SLP), PCR based techniques such as HLADQa, Quad, SGM SGMplus, DNA-17, New multiplexes

3 Generation of STR DNA profiles

Introduction to how reproducible and sizeable DNA profiles using multiplexed short tandem repeat (STR) are generated.

4 Crime Scene profiling

Sources of DNA encountered in forensic casework and anti-contamination procedures.

5 Statistical evaluation of DNA matches and court presentation

Match probability calculations, population genetics and Bayesian approach to evidence interpretation. Presentation of DNA evidence in court; challenges and appeals

6 Population Genetics

Principles of inheritance - Mendel's laws, population genetics

7 Identification of human remains

Human remains identification, including mass disaster- victim ID by the use of surrogate reference samples and relatives’ samples.

8 Intelligence-led screens

Role of such initiatives with casework examples

9 Specialist techniques

New developments/ Ongoing research areas

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Teaching will comprise lectures and tutorials to explore the theory behind forensic DNA analysis. These are then supported by the practicals, which put this material into context as the students analyse their own DNA profiles. The students also undertake a group presentation on a selected DNA related topic. This assists their revision ahead of the final scheduled module examination.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 24
Tutorial/Seminar 12
Supervised Practical Activity 12
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 27
Independent 125

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.