Course: Human Anatomy & Physiology 1, BIOL-210
Professor: Dr. Gregory Leppert
Assignment Title: Forensic Analysis of Human Remains
This paper is the signature assignment for my Fall 2022 Human Anatomy & Physiology course. After completing an in-lab forensic assignment earlier in the semester, students were to investigate deeper into forensic analysis through independent research using scholarly sources. Students describe methods used by forensic scientists to deduce a deceased individual’s sex, ethnicity, age, lifestyle, stature, and facial features – including the limits of traditional and current methods due to morphological diversity within the human species. In addition to describing the stages of human decomposition, students were prompted to reach back to information learned earlier in the semester – particularly bone development, bone remodeling, and organ systems – to write an introduction and illustrate connections between forensics and the broader study of anatomy & physiology.
For the paper’s discussion section, students were given several topics to choose from. I chose to research the role of DNA analysis in forensics due to my interest in molecular biology.
Of the topics I researched for this assignment, I found DNA analysis the most interesting. My favorite sciences are biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and neuroscience – all of which have clear connections with anatomy and physiology.
When I transfer to a four-year university next Fall, I will major in public health. Although public health mostly deals with the living, there are overlaps with forensics. For example, techniques like DNA analysis, blood testing, and microbial analysis reveal information about the life, health, and death of an individual.
Through this assignment, I learned about the challenges that forensic scientists face when identifying a deceased individual. Indications of adult age, sex, race, and stature – especially race – are based on average measurements and morphologies. Individuals who are multiracial have an even greater likelihood of skeletal features that do not fit into one category, complicating identification.
Since each skeleton is unique, it is important that forensic scientists analyze all aspects of a skeleton and collect as much other material as available – such as from teeth, hair, skin, and fluids – to make reliable deductions.
I was familiar with PCR and other components of genetics prior to this paper, but I did not know there were so many methods of DNA collection, extraction, and amplification. Reading about current research on improving DNA analysis methods was also interesting.
Challenges and Successes
My greatest challenges with this assignment were time management and keeping the length to twelve pages. With so much essential information to cover and all the interesting information I discovered about current advancements in forensic analysis, I had to be selective with which details to include. A little more than halfway through, I decided that the best approach was to go with my first instincts regarding these decisions. This helped my editing process go faster, as well.