Research Lab: Kalafut

Dr. Tim Kalafut is an Associate Professor in the Forensic Science Department. He joined the faculty at Sam Houston State University in August 2020 after over 20 years as a practicing forensic DNA analyst. He earned a Chemistry degree with a music minor at Whitworth University in 1990. After completing his Ph.D. (Toxicology) at Texas A&M University in 1999, he spent 3 years as a DNA analyst at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas Texas. Dr. Kalafut spent the next 19 years at the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL) working on cases from military installations around the world.

Dr. Kalafut has testified in numerous military courts martial and in state courts as an expert witness for both the prosecution and the defense. While at the USACIL he was a key player in bringing probabilistic genotyping to the laboratory in the form of STRmix™ software and helped the Army lab become the first lab in the United States to adopt a fully continuous likelihood ratio for routine casework. In addition, Dr. Kalafut helped to develop the ArmedXpert™ DNA software package in use at crime labs across the country for mixture interpretation and management of case samples.

Dr. Kalafut has been an invited speaker at many forensic symposia and worked with a team of experts from the USACIL to deliver advanced mixture interpretation courses to hundreds of DNA examiners from dozens of crime labs across the country. He currently serves as a member of the Human Forensic Biology Sub-Committee for the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC).

Research Interests:

Dr. Kalafut’s research goals are to make life better for the practicing DNA analyst by solving problems and improving methods both big and small. His experience as a practitioner and the relationships he has made in the field will be put to work at SHSU. Some immediate research goals include refining artifact identification in electropherograms, looking at new and improved differential DNA extraction techniques, and continuing his work in the interpretation of difficult DNA mixtures. Students that work with Dr. Kalafut in these areas will have a strong foundation for a long career in forensic DNA laboratories.

Long-term research interests are driven by the need to not just understand ‘whose’ DNA is present, but how and when did the DNA get there? Formally, this is known as evaluating DNA evidence given activity level propositions. Much of this research will involve students creating research projects that mimic activities of interest that will allow us to collect data that will inform expert opinion on the transfer, persistence, prevalence, and recovery of DNA on items of simulated evidence. Ultimately this research will assist the expert at trial in helping to convey a scientific basis to the fact finder (jury) as they come to their (but not the analyst’s!) final determination about how the DNA from a person of interest may have ended up on an item.