Solving crime through maths and science

Dr Duncan Taylor


Dr Duncan Taylor loves nothing more than using mathematics and molecular science to solve crime in the community.

Dr Taylor’s curiosity for forensic problem solving began at Flinders University.

‘Flinders offers a world-class forensic course. It was the first opportunity I had to plan, problem solve and adapt within a large-scale project,’ says Dr Taylor (BTech(Forensic&AnalyticalChem) ’01, BSc(Hons) ’02, PhD(Biol) ’07).

The mild-mannered Flinders science graduate is now seeing his work in forensics deliver more reliable and objective expert testimony in court cases around the world.

Principal Scientist Statistics at Forensic Science SA (FSSA) for the past 14 years, Dr Taylor has helped to create and develop STRmix™, a specialist software that analyses DNA profiles, even from small amounts of DNA or complex mixed samples.

With co-developers, Dr John Buckleton and Dr Jo-Anne Bright, from New Zealand’s Institute of Environmental Science and Research, the software interprets increasingly complex DNA profiles against databases, combining molecular biology and population science, to provide greater intelligence to police.

From cold case unsolved crime, to crime scene transfer of DNA, the software can analyse DNA profiles, search databases or use familial searches to break new ground in solving the most complex crimes, including serial rape and murder cases.

With the software being used widely in the Australian and New Zealand legal system, the Australasian standard for DNA interpretation is expanding on international jurisdictions. It is now in use in up to 50 labs in the USA and Canada, including the FBI, US Army and the Californian Department of Justice.

An affiliate academic at Flinders University, Dr Taylor’s research continues to influence Flinders postgraduate students who are able to combine their education with research opportunities at FSSA. With his Flinders and FSSA colleagues, Dr Taylor has recently co-written a crowning paper, ‘The first Australian conviction resulting from a familial search,’ in the Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Dr Duncan Taylor was awarded a 2018 Flinders University Distinguished Alumni Award for his significant contribution to the field of forensic evidence, in particular to the development of DNA interpretation software which has had a considerable impact on the discipline of evidence interpretation and consequently on the provision of justice.

Flinders graduates have global reach and international impact, read more

 

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