NIST logo

Biology/DNA

Forensic scientists analyze biological evidence to help solve a variety of crimes. These analyses can show that biological materials from a specific individual was found at a crime scene, can help inform how a victim may have died, and can even bring identity to unknown human remains found in advanced stages of decomposition. Forensic biology is used to determine what types of biological stains, such as blood or semen, are left at a crime scene and to link those stains to individuals through DNA analysis.

  • DNA Analysis
  • Serology
  • Biology Screening
  • Pathology/Forensic Anthropology

Specific Projects

Partnership with Applied Genetics Group
We work closely with the NIST Applied Genetics Group, which focuses on developing standards and technology to support the use of DNA testing in human identification. For example, with the Applied Genetics Group, we helped develop Standard Reference Material for DNA profiling to ensure that forensic laboratories produce consistent results. We also supported their research to enable forensic scientists to obtain DNA profiles from items that have previously been unsuccessful in yielding DNA results using conventional DNA analysis markers. This has enabled more information to be entered into DNA databases, which is useful when attempting to provide leads in unsolved crimes with degraded evidence and establishing the identity of victims after a mass disaster. In addition, we supported the Applied Genetics Group efforts to improve the processes used to evaluate evidence items that contain DNA mixtures and their research to speed up the forensic DNA analysis process.

Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation
The proper long-term storage and preservation of biological evidence has become increasingly newsworthy as states throughout the U.S. enact legislation allowing post-conviction DNA testing of evidence. In August 2010, we partnered with the National Institute of Justice to lead the Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation, which examines current policies, procedures, and practices in biological evidence collection, storage, and preservation. The primary objective of the working group was to establish best practices, based in science, to reduce the premature destruction and degradation of biological evidence, thus ensuring its availability for future analysis.

The Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation has released The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers. The Handbook addresses packaging and storage, tracking and chain of custody, and disposition of biological evidence.  For more information on the Handbook and the working group, visit the Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation's page.

DNA Strand


Additional Resources

We have contributed to the development of Standard Reference Materials in DNA profiling, such as:

There are also several Scientific Working Groups that provide information related to forensic biology, such as:
For data related to the application of short tandem repeat DNA markers to human identity testing, please visit STRBASE.