Research

We embrace a diverse and experienced faculty with real world experience. These diverse backgrounds ensure students receive the education necessary to apply their knowledge to actual casework and function within the criminal justice system. Faculty and staff within the Department of Forensic Science are shown below:

kerrigan

Dr. Sarah Kerrigan

Professor and Chair
936-294-4370
sarah.kerrigan@shsu.edu
CFS 221H
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests
    Dr. Kerrigan's interests span a variety of topics ranging from policy to practice. Some of her major areas of interest include:
    • New psychoactive substances (NPSs)
    • Designer drugs
    • Human performance toxicology/behavioral toxicology
    • Impaired driving
    • Alcohol and drug-facilitated sexual assault
    • Alternative and complex biological matrices
    • Maternal-fetal medicine

    Current MS and PhD students in Dr. Kerrigan's laboratory are involved in a variety of projects including the systematic evaluation of cathinone stability, analysis of the opioid receptor agonist and psychoactive drug mitragynine ("Kratom") using high resolution mass spectrometry, desomorphine ("Krokodil") metabolism and analysis, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) in hair, and the new hypnotic drug suvorexant (Belsomra) in biological evidence.

Gates

Dr. Madeleine Swortwood

Assistant Professor, Director of FS Graduate Programs
936-294-4319
gatesm@shsu.edu
CFS 221D
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests

    Dr. Swortwood's interests span a variety of topics within forensic toxicology. As her graduate work investigated synthetic cathinones, or "bath salts", her research has expanded further into designer drugs, or novel psychoactive substances (NPS). She has developed and validated new analytical procedures for detection and quantification of drugs of abuse in biological fluids. Her postdoctoral research at NIH expanded her research interests a bit further to include metabolite identification of NPS, drug detection in alternative matrices (particularly oral fluid), in utero drug exposure, and impaired driving and human performance (particularly after marijuana consumption).

    Her research goals expand upon forensic toxicology knowledge of NPS (including designer benzodiazepines and designer opioids) by examining NPS in alternative matrices and expanding stability studies. She is also interested in detecting and quantifying cocaine adulterants in biological fluids as well as seized materials from a multi-disciplinary angle. Ultimately, she wants to develop that are easily applied to working forensic toxicology laboratories from extraction- and detection-standpoint.

Buzzini

Dr. Patrick Buzzini

Associate Professor
936-294-3633
patrick.buzzini@shsu.edu
CFS 221G
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests
    Dr. Buzzini's research interests are geared toward the forensic applications of microscopical and instrumental analysis methods (i.e., spectroscopy) to various types of trace materials (e.g., paint and fibers) and questioned documents (e.g., ink analysis). He is also interested in problems of physical evidence interpretation and experiments in the context of crime reconstructions. His main previous research focused on the application of micro Raman spectroscopy in trace materials analyses. For example, my doctoral work was on the discriminating analysis of fiber dyes using this technique. Some of the questions that he is interested in are how this technique responds to samples made of mixtures of dyes or pigments, how it complements other methods such as microspectrophotometry or infrared spectroscopy and how it can be implemented in forensic casework.

    Current research involves:
    • The development of a baseline survey of aleatory presence of glass and paint fragments on individuals' clothes and shoes for the interpretation of trace evidence. This is a collaborative project with Dr. Tatiana Trejos at West Virginia University.
    • The use of magnetic flux measurements to the differentiation of toner inks in questioned documents.
    • The study of the properties of blending markers inks in comparison with regular felt-tipped marker inks.
    • The data fusion of highly dimensional chemical data to maximize the efficiency of the differentiation of automotive paint in the context of comparative examinations.
    • The joint use of dichroism and UV-Vis microspectrophotometry to the discrimination of colored textile fibers.
    • The characterization and value of automotive fluids for sourcing purposes.
Davidson

Dr. J. Tyler Davidson

Assistant Professor
936-294-3202
jxd115@shsu.edu
CFS 222
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests

    Dr. Davidson's research interests span the worlds of seized drug analysis and toxicology with an emphasis on the identification of novel synthetic drugs. His experience with seized drug analysis involves the combination of mass spectral interpretation and the use of multivariate analysis for the differentiation of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) with gas chromatography-electron ionization-mass spectrometry (GC-EI-MS). In comparison, his background in toxicology is based on the structural characterization of synthetic cathinones and fentanyl-related compounds (FRCs) with the use of tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS).

    His long-term research goals are to assist the seized drug and toxicological communities through research focused on multivariate analysis of electron ionization mass spectra (EI-MS) for novel synthetic drug classification, forensic applications of ambient ionization mass spectrometry (AI-MS), and novel synthetic drug identification through underlying fragmentation mechanisms. Ultimately, Dr. Davidson hopes to assist the forensic science community by providing solutions for the classification and identification of novel synthetic drugs.

Houston

Dr. Rachel Houston

Assistant Professor
936-294-4359
rmh034@shsu.edu
CFS 224
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests

    Dr. Houston's research interests include a variety of topics that range from innovative technologies applied to human identification to non-human forensic genetics. Current projects at SHSU include the evaluation of an innovative DNA collection device with mock DVI type samples, the development of an assay for rapid detection and identification of bio-threats, and the exploration of hotspot regions in the Cannabis sativa chloroplast genome for biogeographic and crop type determination.

    Other research interests include:
    • Exploring the use of alternate DNA markers (INNULs, INDELs, SNPs)
    • Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS) for forensic and intelligence purposes
    • Developing genetic assays for forensically relevant plant and animal species
Hughes

Dr. Sheree Hughes

Associate Professor and Interim Director of the Southeast Texas Forensic Science (STAFS) Facility
936-294-2218
sheree.hughes@shsu.edu
CFS 221A
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests

    Dr. Sheree Hughes completed a PhD at Bond University on the Gold Coast in Australia, investigating forensic DNA typing methods for highly degraded samples such as those recovered from mass disasters, shipwrecks and ancient remains in conjunction with DNA repair techniques and phenotypic SNP analysis.

    At SHSU she continues to merge her research interests of DNA typing and forensic anthropology by investigating degraded and challenging biological samples, and decomposing human remains for human identification and forensic intelligence purposes.

    Dr. Hughes leads a research group consisting of graduate and postgraduate students where the main research centers around improving DNA collection, room temperature DNA preservation, sample preparation, and DNA typing methods for skeletal and highly decomposed tissues for missing persons and disaster victim identification (DVI) applications.

    Other current research interests include exploring alternate DNA markers (INNULs, INDELs, SNPs) and various Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)/ Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS) technologies for forensic and intelligence purposes. These markers may be used to identify persons, or determine ancestry or phenotypic traits such as hair, eye and skin color. In addition, she investigates sample enhancement strategies for low level and degraded samples prior to MPS.

    Dr. Hughes also conducts research projects aimed to improve the collection, DNA extraction and genotyping methods from handled items (eg. “touch” samples and explosive devices), sexual assault samples, genetic genealogy, and assessing the utility and persistence of body fluid identification markers (miRNA) in environmentally challenging samples using capillary electrophoresis and MPS methods.

Kalafut

Dr. Tim Kalafut

Associate Professor
936-294-2536
tim.kalafut@shsu.edu
CFS 221B
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests

    Dr. Kalafut intends to continue working toward the advancement of DNA mixture interpretation, improvements in analytical techniques, probabilistic genotyping, and how these concepts will be used in Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) DNA data. He is especially interested in the Hierarchy of Propositions and how this relates to effective laboratory examinations, and the communication of these results to investigators, attorneys, judges, and jury members. An ongoing research theme will be focusing on the evaluation of data given activity level propositions.

Monjardez

Dr. Geraldine Monjardez

Assistant Professor
936-294-4413
gxm073@shsu.edu
CFS 221C
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests

    Dr. Monjardez's research focus on the opportunities at the intersection of analytical chemistry (with a focus on Spectroscopy) and trace evidence. She is currently investigating forensic field detection of trace materials, such as body fluids, using Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS). Other work includes the analysis of automotive greases and explosives and field detection of chemical contaminants in food and biological matrices.

Yu

Dr. Jorn (Chi-Chung) Yu

Professor
936-294-4412
jornyu@shsu.edu
CFS 221F
Bio & Publications

  • Research Interests

    Dr. Yu's research interests include topics in headspace chemical forensics for field analysis and laboratory testing. Chemical forensics deals with the understanding of chemical information of physical evidence to their sources. Headspace chemical forensics is a subdiscipline of chemical forensics which attempts to detect origins or characteristics of physical evidence from headspace chemical analysis.

    Our research focuses on the development of reliable analytical platforms with artificial intelligence (AI) that will eliminate human errors and meet the standards of forensic testing. With the advancement of machine learning for the process of chemical signals, we can make use of headspace chemical analysis for chemical forensics. In addition, Dr. Yu's research group recently explored the application of nanomaterials to enhance forensic testing of chemical evidence.