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Term Definition

AAFS AAFS – American Academy of Forensic Sciences

Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy – A method of analysing gunshot


Accident Reconstruction Using physical evidence a re-create a crime or accident scene

Acclimatization Adaptation of an organism to a new environment.

A test to reveal the presence of seminal fluid, appearing purple when

Acid Phosphate Test –

An official FDA communication that informs an NDA or BLA sponsor of

Action letter a decision by the agency. An approval letter allows commercial
marketing of the product.

A type of acquired immunity whereby resistance to a disease is built

Active immunity
up by either having the disease or receiving a vaccine to it.

A waxy, soap-like substance that can form on cadavers during

decomposition under specific conditions. Also known as ‘grave wax’.

Insoluble material that increases the formation and persistence of

antibodies when injected with an antigen.

Aerobic Needing oxygen for growth.

Automated Fingerprint Indetification System. Used to search a

AFIS fingerprint against a data base for potential matches. A term you
routinely hear on NCIS

The tendency of blood cells to clump together in reaction to an


Aggravating Circumstances
Conditions which make a crime more serious.
Agrobacterium tumefaciens
A common soil bacterium used as a vector to create transgenic plants.

Algor Mortis The reduction in body temperature after death.

Any of multiple forms of a gene located at the same point on a

Allele –
particular pair of chromosomes.

Father of Criminal Identification. He devised a system of personal

Alphonse Bertillion
identification using a series of body measurements

a device that has the ability to cycle between several different

Alternative Light Source wavelengths of light. It can alter the wavelength of light being emitted
from the source

A disease characterized by, among other things, progressive loss of

memory. The development of Alzheimer's disease is thought to be
Alzheimer's disease
associated, in part, with possessing certain alleles of the gene that
encodes apolipoprotein E.

Building blocks of proteins. There are 20 common amino acids:

alanine, arginine, aspargine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid,
glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine,
Amino acids
phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine and
valine. Two more amino acids have been discovered in microbes:
selenocysteine and pyrrolysine.

The process of increasing the number of copies of a particular gene or

chromosomal sequence.

Anaerobic Growing in the absence of oxygen.

The acute angle (alpha), relative to the plane of a target, at which a

blood drop strikes the target. Measuring the width and length of
blood spatter, then divide the length measurement into the width
Angle of Impact
then calculae the inverse sine of that result. Then consult an angle of
Impact chart to convert result into degrees for an angle. Used to
determine the angle where impact was made.
Ante-mortem Prior to death.

The scientific study of the origin, culture, and development of human

beings. Generally divided into the study of physical anthropology and
social anthropology. Forensic anthropology mainly involves the
Anthropology (forensic)
analysis and identification of human skeletal remains in order to
identify age, sex, stature, ancestry, and racial classification of the

Anthropomenty Identifiction by a series of body measurements

Devised by Alphonse Bertillon, a method of using a person’s key body

measurements as a means of identification.

Chemical substance formed as a metabolic byproduct in bacteria or

Antibiotic fungi and used to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics can be
produced naturally, using microorganisms, or synthetically.

Protein produced by humans and higher animals in response to the

presence of a specific antigen

Triplet of nucleotide bases (codon) in transfer RNA that pairs with (is
complementary to) a triplet in messenger RNA. For example, if the
codon is UCG, the anticodon is AGC. See also Base; Base pair;

A substance that, when introduced into the body, induces an immune

response by a specific antibody. Antigenic determinant See Hapten.

A family of whole-blood proteins that initiate blood clotting. Some of

Antihemophilic factors these proteins, such as factor VIII, can be used to treat hemophilia.
See also Factor VIII; Kidney plasminogen activator.

A piece of DNA producing a mirror image ("antisense") messenger RNA

that is opposite in sequence to one directing protein synthesis.
Antisense technology is used to selectively turn off production of
certain proteins.

Blood serum containing specific antibodies against an antigen.

Antisera are used to confer passive immunity to many diseases.
APB all points bulletin

Certain alleles of the gene that encodes the protein apolipoprotein E

Apolipoprotein E (Apo E) have been associated with the development of heart disease and
Alzheimer's disease.

A characteristic pattern of fingerprint ridges, possessed by

approximately 5% of the population.

The area of convergence is the box formed by the intersection of

several stains from opposite sides of the impact pattern.; The area
Area of Convergence containing the intersections generated by lines drawn through the
long axes of individual stains that indicates in two dimensions the
location of the blood source.

Area of Origin The three-dimensional location from which spatter originated

Intentionally causing a fire to destroy the property in a criminal


Death caused by suffocation as a result of the lack of oxygen and

increase of carbon dioxide in the blood. Also known as apnoea.

Assay Technique for measuring a biological response.

The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Department of Justice)

ATF enforces the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Organized Crime Control
Act of 1970

Analyze alcoholic beverages and documents relating to alcohol and

ATF Lab firear excise tax law enforcement and examine weapons, explosive
devices, and related evidence

with reference to vaccines, made from pathogenic organisms that

Attenuated Weakened
have been treated so as to render them avirulent.

A disease in which the body produces antibodies against its own

Autoimmune disease
A condition in which the body mounts an immune response against
one of its own organs or tissues.

an exterior and interior examination of a corpse to determine the time

and cause of death.

The internal medical examination of a body used to determine the

cause and circumstances of death.

Also known as an autorad, this is the final product in DNA analysis,

having a similar appearance as a barcode.

Autosome Any chromosome other than a sex chromosome.

Avirulent Unable to cause disease.

Term Definition

A class of lymphocytes, released from the bone marrow, that produce

B lymphocytes (B-cells)

A bacterium commonly used as a host in recombinant DNA

Bacillus subtilis
experiments. Important because of its ability to secrete proteins.

Naturally occurring soil bacterium that generates a protein toxic to a

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) variety of lepidoptera, such as corn borers, but is harmless to people
and animals.

A bloodstain pattern resulting from blood drops that traveled in the

Backspatter pattern opposite direction of the external force applied; associated with an
entrance wound created by a projectile.

Bacteriophage Virus that lives in and kills bacteria. Also called phage.

Any of a large group of microscopic organisms with a very simple cell

Bacterium structure. Some manufacture their own food, some live as parasites
on other organisms, and some live on decaying matter.
The science of reading footprints in order to establish the pace, size,
Barefoot Morphology
and body weight of the individual.

A key component of DNA and RNA molecules. Four different bases are
found in DNA: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T).
Base In RNA, uracil (U) substitutes for thymine. Also known as nitrogenous
bases. A base, a phosphate molecule and a sugar joined together
constitute a nucleotide.

Two nucleotide bases on different strands of the nucleic acid molecule

Base pair that bond together. The bases can pair in only one way: adenine with
thymine (DNA), or uracil (RNA) and guanine with cytosine.

Invented by Alphonse Bertillon, a now obsolete method of classifying

human beings by a set of body measurements.

Determination of the effectiveness of a compound by measuring its

Bioassay effect on animals, tissues or organisms in comparison with a standard

Increasing the activity of bacteria that break down pollutants by

adding more of their kind. A technique used in bioremediation.

In bioprocessing, an enzyme that activates or speeds up a biochemical


Biochemical The product of a chemical reaction in a living organism.

An electronic device that uses organic molecules to form a


Bioconversion Chemical restructuring of raw materials by using a biocatalyst.

Capable of being reduced to water and carbon dioxide by the action of


A bioremediation strategy that involves adding nutrients or oxygen,

Bioenrichment thereby bolstering the activity of microbes as they break down
The science of informatics as applied to biological research.
Informatics is the management and analysis of data using advanced
Bioinformatics computing techniques. Bioinformatics is particularly important as an
adjunct to genomics research, because of the large amount of complex
data this research generates.

A device that shoots microscopic DNA coated particles into target

Biolistic device

A therapeutic or prophylactic derived from a living source (human,

animal or unicellular). Most biologics are complex mixtures that are
not easily identified or characterized, and many are manufactured
using biotechnology. Biological products often represent the cutting-
edge of biomedical research and are sometimes the most effective
way to prevent or treat a disease.

A substance that alters the growth or functioning of a cell. Includes

Biologic response modifier
hormones and compounds that affect the nervous and immune

Biological oxygen demand The amount of oxygen used for growth by organisms in water that
(BOD) contains organic matter.

Responsible for the examination of blood, hairs, fibers , and botanical

Biological Unit

The totality of biological matter in a given area. As commonly used in

biotechnology, refers to the use of cellulose, a renewable resource, for
Biomass the production of chemicals that can be used to generate energy or as
alternative feedstocks for the chemical industry to reduce dependence
on nonrenewable fossil fuels.

Biological molecules, such as proteins and complex sugars, used to

Biomaterials make medical devices, including structural elements used in
reconstructive surgery.

A process in which living cells, or components thereof, are used to

produce a desired product. Bioreactor Vessel used for bioprocessing.
The use of microorganisms to remedy environmental problems,
rendering hazardous wastes nonhazardous.

Biosynthesis Production of a chemical by a living organism.

The use of biological processes to solve problems or make useful


The use of enzymes in chemical synthesis to produce chemical

compounds of a desired stereochemistry.

The 4- to 5-day-old ball of undifferentiated cells from which a

Blastocyst (Blastula) prospective embryo develops. In mammals it consists of two distinct
parts: the inner cell mass and the trophoblast.

Blood Analysis Blood Analysis – See ‘serology’.

One of the four ways to categorise a person based on the antibodies

Blood Group
and antigens in their red blood cells; A, B, AB, and O.

The congestion of blood in the lowest areas of a dead body. See

Blood Pooling –

Blood spatter, or bloodstain pattern interpretation, is a technique that

Blood spatter
seeks to piece together the events that caused bleeding.

Blood Spatter Pattern The examination of blood spatter patterns to determine the events
Analysis which took place before, during and after the spilling of the blood.

Blood stain A deposit of blood on a surface.

The interpretation of the shape, size, orientation, and distribution of

Bloodstain Interpretation

The examination of the shapes, locations and distribution patterns of

bloodstains in order to provide an interpretation of the physical events
Bloodstain pattern analysis
by which they were created that is based on the premise that all
bloodstains and bloodstain patterns are characteristic of the forces
that have created them.
term to indicate a physical description of a person of interest in a
crime--short for BE ON THE LOOKOUT.

A hormone secreted by the bovine pituitary gland. It is used to

Bovine somatotropin (BST)
increase milk production by improving the feed efficiency in dairy
cattle milk. Also called bovine growth hormone.

Technology used to determine whether a brain registers a memory,

particularly a criminal act.

Two genes that normally help to restrain cell growth, but which can
contain certain genetic mutations associated with the development of
breast and ovarian cancer. Note, however, that inherited BRCA1 and
BRCA1 and BRCA2 (Breast
BRCA2 mutations are thought to account for less than 10 percent of all
Cancer genes 1 and 2)
breast and ovarian cancers. Recent evidence suggests that somatic cell
genetic mutations (i.e., noninherited genetic mutations) in these two
genes may also play a role in the development of cancer.

A swab taken from the mouth to collect epithelial cells for DNA
Buccal Swab

Bullet Track The path a projectile takes as it passes through matter.

A dark, ring-like mark found around an entrance wound, composed of

Bullet Wipe
lead, carbon oil and dirt.

Term Definition

The internal diameter of the gun barrel or bullet, expressed in

hundredths of an inch.

A cluster of undifferentiated plant cells that can, in some species, be

induced to form the whole plant.

Canine Olfactory Muscosa the sensory cell region of a dog's nose that receives a scent and
Region transfers information about that scent to the dog's brain
Capital Punishment The death sentence.

A type of biological molecule composed of simple sugars such as

glucose. Common examples include starch and cellulose.

Carcinogen Cancer-causing agent.

A small cylinder of metal or pasteboard which holds a charge of

Cartridge Case
powder and often a bullet.

The discover of links between cases which were previously thought to

Case Linkage
be unrelated.

Blood spatter produced when a bloodied object is pulled back from a

Cast-off Stains

An agent (such as an enzyme or a metallic complex) that facilitates a

reaction but is not itself changed during the reaction.

An injury or disease that ultimately leads to death of the individual,

Cause of Death
generally determined by medical examiners or coroners.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention


The smallest structural unit of a living organism that can grow and
reproduce independently.

Cell culture Growth of cells under laboratory conditions.

The process by which descendants of a common parental cell achieve

Cell differentiation
specialized structure and function.

Cell fusion See Fusion.

Cell line Cells that grow and replicate continuously outside the living organism.
Acquired immunity in which T lymphocytes play a predominant role.
Cell-mediated immunity Development of the thymus in early life is critical to the proper
development and functioning of cell-mediated immunity.

A method of keeping track of who has handled a piece of evidence,

Chain of Custody when, and for what purpose. Vital in ensuring evidence is not
damaged or altered in any way.

Cheiloscopy the study of lip prints, from the Greek word cheilos, meaning "lip".

Using structural and functional genomic information about biological

Chemical genomics molecules, especially proteins, to identify useful small molecules and
alter their structure to improve their efficacy.

The individual (animal or lower organism) produced by grafting an

Chimera embryonic part of one individual onto an embryo of either the same or
a different species.

The constriction of a shotgun barrel to reduce the spread of the shot,

thus increasing its range.

A technique used to separate a sample into its component molecules

based on the speed at which they move through a stationary matrix.

A component found inside most human cells consisting of long coils of

Chromosome DNA. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, one set inherited from
each parent.

Threadlike components in the cell that contain DNA and proteins.

Genes are carried on the chromosomes. Pairs of compressed units of
Chromosomes DNA; one half is inherited maternally and the othr paternally.
Chromosome patterns can help distinguish relationshiops between
siblings and parents.

Circumstantial Evidence Evidence from which a logical conclusion of a fact may be drawn.

Class Characteristic a feature that is common to a group of items

Clinical studies Human studies that are designed to measure the efficacy of a new
drug or biologic. Clinical studies routinely involve the use of a control
group of patients that is given an inactive substance (placebo) that
looks like the test product.

A term that is applied to genes, cells or entire organisms that are

derived from - and are genetically identical to - a single common
ancestor gene, cell or organism, respectively. Cloning of genes and
cells to create many copies in the laboratory is a common procedure
essential for biomedical research. Note that several processes
Clone commonly described as cell "cloning" give rise to cells that are almost
but not completely genetically identical to the ancestor cell. Cloning of
organisms from embryonic cells occurs naturally in nature (e.g.,
identical twins). Researchers have achieved laboratory cloning using
genetic material from adult animals of several species, including mice,
pigs and sheep.

The Combined DNA Index System, the FBI database of genetic


A sequence of three nucleotide bases that specifies an amino acid or

represents a signal to stop or start a function.

An organic compound that is necessary for the functioning of an

Co-enzyme enzyme. Co-enzymes are smaller than the enzymes themselves and
sometimes separable from them.

A nonprotein substance required for certain enzymes to function. Co-

factors can be co-enzymes or metallic ions.

An unsolved case which is still open but no longer being actively

Cold Case

A group of lymphokines that induce the maturation and proliferation

Colony-stimulating factors
of white blood cells from the primitive cell types present in bone

A product discovery technique that uses robotics and parallel

synthesis to generate and screen quickly as many as several million
Combinatorial chemistry
molecules with similar structure in order to find chemical molecules
with desired properties.
A microbe oxidizing not only its main energy source but also another
organic compound.

Two compound microscopes combined into a single unit, allowing

Comparison Microscope objects to be placed under each and viewed side by side through a
single eyepiece.

The relationship of the nucleotide bases on two different strands of

DNA or RNA. When the bases are paired properly (adenine with
thymine [DNA] or uracil [RNA]; guanine with cytosine), the strands are

DNA synthesized from a messenger RNA rather than from a DNA

Complementary DNA (cDNA)
template. This type of DNA is used for cloning or as a DNA probe for
locating specific genes in DNA hybridization studies.

A sketch composed of a suspect produced from one or more

Composite Drawing
eyewitness description.

A basic microscope composed of two lenses which focus a magnified

Compound Microscope
image of the subject on the retina of the observer’s eye.

A subdiscipline within bioinformatics concerned with computation-

Computational biology
based research devoted to understanding basic biological processes.

The application of computer technology and techniques to aid legal

Computer Forensics

Patterns of cracks in glass pierced by a projectile such as a bullet which

Concentric Fractures
runs between the radial fractures.

Sexual reproduction of bacterial cells in which there is a one-way

exchange of genetic material between the cells in contact.

A wound occurring when the firearm is fired whilst placed against a

Contact Wound

A region of injured tissue or skin in which blood capillaries have been

ruptured. i.e. from blunt trauma.
A medical examiner or elected official who may, in some jurisdictions,
lead a homicide investigation.

The essential body of facts that suggest a crime has occurred. From
Corpus Delicti
the Latin ‘body of crime’.

The central portion of a hair containing the pigment which gives hair
its colour.

Crime Scene Reconstruction The use of evidence to determine the events which occurred at a
crime scene.

Crime Scene Staging The alteration of a crime scene in order to reduce its evidentiary value.

The analysis of the crime scene and crime patterns to assign relevant
Criminal Profiling characteristics to a perpetrator in order to aid law enforcement in
narrowing the field of suspects.

The field of scientific study applying science to law and criminal


Criminology The study of criminal activity and legal procedure

Crossing over Exchange of genes between two paired chromosomes.

Legal, contractual procedure in which two or more firms with

competing, similar technologies and possible conflicting patent claims
strike a deal to reduce the need for legal actions to clarify who is to
profit from applications of the technology.

Crime Scene Investigator or Crime Scene Investigation, depending on

the context.

A recent phenomenon, creating elevated standards and heightened

expectations in the minds of jurors and others of the ability of real-life
CSI Effect
forensic science, that arose from television shows like CSI and NCIS,
which can distort the reality of the science.
As a noun, cultivation of living organisms in prepared medium; as a
verb, to grow in prepared medium.

Any nutrient system for the artificial cultivation of bacteria or other

Culture medium
cells; usually a complex mixture of organic and inorganic materials.

The protective outer sheath of a hair, composed of a series of

overlapping scales.

A highly poisonous water-soluble chemical composed of carbon and


Cyto- Referring to cell.

Study of the cell and its heredity-related components, especially


Cellular material that is within the cell membrane and surrounds the

Cytotoxic Able to cause cell death.

Term Definition

Dactyloscopy The development and identification of fingerprints.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (Department of Justice)

regulates the production, sale, and transportation of drugs.

DEA Lab Analyze drugs seized in violation of federal laws

also known as baby teeth, milk teeth, temporary teeth, primary teeth.
Deciduous Teeth
Thye are the first set of human dentition are 20 in number

Decomposition The disintegration of body tissues after death.

Characteristic injuries during the course of an assault, as the victim
Defensive Wound
tried to defend itself, and ward off blows.

Delta A characteristic junction in a loop ridge fingerprint pattern.

Equipment used for measuring the distribution of different particles in

Density Gradient Tube a soil sample by establishing the point at which they are suspended in
a tube filled with layers of liquid of different densities.

A test in which glass fragments are floated to establish if they are from
Density Test
the same source.

A casting material commonly used for making impressions of

Dental Stone
footprints and tires.

The molecule that carries the genetic information for most living
systems. The DNA molecule consists of four bases (adenine, cytosine,
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
guanine and thymine) and a sugar-phosphate backbone, arranged in
two connected strands to form a double helix. See also
Complementary DNA; Double helix; Recombinant DNA.

A product used for the diagnosis of disease or medical condition. Both

Diagnostic monoclonal antibodies and DNA probes are useful diagnostic

Microscopic algae found in bodies of water, beneficial in narrowing

Diatom –
down the source of a water sample.

The process of biochemical and structural changes by which cells

become specialized in form and function.

Diploid A cell with two complete sets of chromosomes. Compare Haploid.

Disarticulation The separation of bone joints.

DNA See Deoxyribonucleic acid.

A small piece of glass or silicon that has small pieces of DNA arrayed
DNA chip
on its surface.
The use of restriction enzymes to measure the genetic variation of
DNA fingerprinting individuals. This technology is often used as a forensic tool to detect
differences or similarities in blood and tissue samples at crime scenes.

A physical remnant from a living thing containing its DNA, such as hair,
DNA Fragment
blood, saliva, feces, bones, hide, skin, fur or urine.

The formation of a double-stranded nucleic acid molecule from two

DNA hybridization separate strands. The term also applies to a molecular technique that
uses one nucleic acid strand to locate another.

A collection of cloned DNA fragments that collectively represent the

DNA library
genome of an organism.

An enzyme that replicates DNA. DNA polymerase is the basis of PCR-

DNA polymerase
the polymerase chain reaction.

A small piece of nucleic acid that has been labeled with a radioactive
DNA probe isotope, dye or enzyme and is used to locate a particular nucleotide
sequence or gene on a DNA molecule.

DNA Profile A composite of genetic markers uniquely characterising an individual.

Creating a DNA fingerprint from a biological sample for use in

DNA Profiling
comparison and the identification of an individual.

DNA repair enzymes Proteins that recognize and repair certain abnormalities in DNA.

DNA sequence The order of nucleotide bases in the DNA molecule.

Pieces of foreign DNA that are injected into an organism to trigger an

DNA vaccines
immune response.

A term often used to describe the configuration of the DNA molecule.

The helix consists of two spiraling strands of nucleotides (a sugar,
Double helix
phosphate and base) joined crosswise by specific pairing of the bases.
See also Deoxyribonucleic acid; Base; Base pair.
A bloodstain pattern resulting from the movement of a source of drip
Drip Trail
stains between two points.

The process by which a formulated drug is administered to the patient.

Traditional routes have been oral or intravenous perfusion. New
Drug delivery
methods deliver through the skin with a transdermal patch or across
the nasal membrane with an aerosol spray.

Death caused by asphyxiation resulting from muscular paralysis

Dry Drowning
brought on from the shock of the victim falling into the water.

Term Definition

A device used to measure the electrical activity of the brain,

converting the information into a readable report.

Electron Microscope A microscope which uses a beam of electrons to focus an object.

A technique used to separate DNA fragments. The DNA is placed in a

Electrophoresis charged gel, the charge causing the fragments to move towards one
pole at different rates.

The creation of reversible small holes in a cell wall or membrane

Electroporation through which foreign DNA can pass. This DNA can then integrate into
the cell's genome.

Electrostatic dustprint lifter a device that creates a charge across a Mylar film tolife dust off a
(ESDPL) surface.

Cells that can give rise to any type of differentiated cell. They can be
Embryonic stem cells derived from two sources: the inner cell mass from a blastocyst or the
primordial germ cells (eggs and sperm) of an older embryo.

Endostatin An endogenous protein that blocks the proliferation of blood vessels.

term historically referring to members of the armed forces of the state

Enemy combatant with which another state is at war.[1] Prior to 2008, the definition was:
"Any person in an armed conflict who could be properly detained
under the laws and customs of war." In the case of a civil war or an
insurrection the term "enemy state" may be replaced by the more
general term "Party to the conflict" (as described in the 1949 Geneva
Conventions Article 3For example, Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who is
a naturalized U.S. citizen, was not treated as an enemy combatant for
his alleged role in the Boston bomb attacks, which killed three people
and wounded more than 200.

Entomology (forensic) The scientific study of insects to aid a legal investigation.

A protein catalyst that facilitates specific chemical or metabolic

reactions necessary for cell growth and reproduction.

A technique for detecting specific proteins by using antibodies linked
immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
to enzymes.

Equivocal Evidence Evidence that supports more than one theory.

A protein that boosts production of red blood cells. It is clinically

Erythropoietin (EPO)
useful in treating certain types of anemia.

A bacterium that inhabits the intestinal tract of most vertebrates.

Much of the work using recombinant DNA techniques has been carried
Escherichia coli (E. coli)
out with this organism because it has been genetically well

A cell or organism containing a true nucleus, with a well-defined

membrane surrounding the nucleus. All organisms except bacteria,
Eukaryote viruses and cyanobacteria are eukaryotic. Compare Prokaryote. Exon
In eukaryotic cells, that part of the gene that is transcribed into
messenger RNA and encodes a protein. See also Intron; Splicing.

Any items, documents and statements that are included in a legal

Evidence investigation for the jury’s or judge’s consideration in the
determination of an individual’s guilt or innocence.

The DNA profile of the physical frgment that has been found during an
Evidentiary Profile
investigation and collected as evidence.
An individual with a specialised knowledge of a certain field that can
Expert Witness assist in the understanding of complicated information or offer an
expert opinion.

A bloodstain pattern resulting from blood forced by airflow out of the

Expiration pattern
nose, mouth, or a wound.

In genetics, manifestation of a characteristic that is specified by a

gene. With hereditary disease, for example, a person can carry the
gene for the disease but not actually have the disease. In this case, the
gene is present but not expressed. In industrial biotechnology, the
term is often used to mean the production of a protein by a gene that
has been inserted into a new host organism.

Microorganisms that live at extreme levels of pH, temperature,

pressure and salinity.

Term Definition

A large, complex protein that aids in blood clotting and is used to treat
Factor VIII
hemophilia. See also Antihemophilic factors.

The worlds largest forensic laboratory performing over one million

examinations every year

Feedstock The raw material used for chemical or biological processes.

The thighbone, the longest bone in the body. In anthropology, this

may be measured and used as a guide to the height of the individual.

The process of growing microorganisms for the production of various

chemical or pharmaceutical compounds. Microbes are normally
incubated under specific conditions in the presence of nutrients in
large tanks called fermentors.

the friction ridge pattern found on the surface of fingers, palms, soles
and toes. Fingerprints are qunique to an individual.
The unique pattern created by the ridges found on the palm side skin
Fingerprint –
of fingers and thumbs.

Responsible for the examination of bullets, cartridge cases, shotgun

Firearms Unit
shells, and ammunition of all types

A device in a gun which strikes the primer, igniting the projectile’s

Firing Pin
propelling charge.

A corpse found in water, often floating due to the build up of gas in

the abdomen as a result of decomposition.

Forensic anthropology is a unique forensic discipline that studies the

human skeleton to answer various questions about an individuals race,
sex, age, height, illness, and trauma. In this particular exercise
Forensic Anthropology
students will explore 1) how a single bone can reveal a person’s overall
height and 2) how this information can be used to make presumptive

The study of insects to determine legal concepts such as time and

Forensic Entomology
location of death.

also see alternate light source; has the ability of shining a specific
Forensic Light Source
wavelength of light, usually blue light.

The application of science pertaining to the law. To aid legal

Forensic Science

Forgery An attempt to replicate the original item and pass it off as authentic.

A pungent gas used as a disinfectant, antiseptic, and fixative for


also see fingerprint; the technical term for the ridges on the palmar
Friction Ridge Pattern
and plantar surfaces that create a fingerprint or toeprint.

Foods containing compounds with beneficial health effects beyond

Functional foods those provided by the basic nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Also
called nutraceuticals.
A field of research that aims to understand what each gene does, how
Functional genomics
it is regulated and how it interacts with other genes.

Fur The shorter hairs that insultate an animal

Joining of the membrane of two cells, thus creating a daughter cell

Fusion that contains some of the same properties from each parent cells.
Used in making hybridomas.

Term Definition

A method of breaking down a compound into its individual

Gas Chromatography
components as they travel through a non-reactive gas.

A method used to divide a DNA sample into its components through

Gel Electrophoresis
the application of an electric charge.

a soft gelatinous sheet with a sticky surface that is used to lift a

Gel Lifter material off a rough or irregular surface, such as fingerprint powder or
dusty shoeprints.

The segment of DNA that codes for the production of a particular


Segments of DNA in varying lengths composed of repeating series of

genetic markers four nucleotide base units. The terms STR markers and microsatellites
also refer to STR sements.

The utilisation of the geographic relationship between crime scenes to

Geographic Profiling
conclude any similarities or other points of interest.

Glossary Go to online textbook at for glossary.

Grab a single sample at a crime scene collected during a chain of custody

The art of determining individual characteristic traits of a person

based on his or her handwriting.
A crime scene searching pattern. The scene is segmented into smaller
Grid Search
areas, each of which is individually searched for evidence.

The longer hairs that protect an animal's outer coat; these are hairs
most eaily shed and most often tested in criminal investigations
Guard Hairs
because they offer the greatest amount of characteristics to be

Commonly abbreviated to GSR. The unburned powder propelled from

Gun Shot Residue a gun when a bullet is fired. It will often be found on the clothing or
skin of the shooter and/or victim.

Term Definition

The protein in a red blood cell responsible for carrying the oxygen in
the bloodstream.

Haemorrhage A severe bleed.

Hemastix A presumptive test for the presence of blood.

Homicide Investigation racking System, Washington State’s database

used to link violent crimes through signature analysis.

HOLMES – The Home Office Large/Major Enquiry System, the UK’s

main police computer system.

Homicide A death caused by another person.

Also known as lividity. The pooling of blood at the lowest parts of the
Hypostasis body. Usually commences between six and eight hours after death has

Hypoxia Decrease in oxygen to the brain.

Term Definition

– International Commission on Missing Persons. Endeavors to secure

the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating and
identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, other
hostilities or violations of human rights and to assist them in doing so.

Immunoassay A test which utilises antibodies to identify and quantify substances.

The evidence left by anything that leaves a kind of impression at the

Impression Evidence
scene or on an item, such as footprints, tire tracks, or toolmarks.

To make of form an indentation. An impression left on paper caused

by the force from a pen tip.

A band of the electromagnetic spectrum which cannot be seen by the

human eye.

Infrared Spectroscopy A type of spectroscopy using infrared light.

a feature that is unique to a single item, and differentiates it from

Inidividual Characteristic
every other item.

Inorganic Compound A substance that is not carbon-based.

Iodine Fuming A form of developing latent fingerprints using the fumes of iodine.

Ion Detector A device that detects the presence of accelerants in the air.

IP Address The specific numeric address of a computer.

Term Definition

Jimmy A short crowbar with curved ends.

Jurisdiction The authority to exert power legally within a specific area.


Term Definition

A specialised evidence response team utilising specially trained dogs

to train certain scents, such as drugs, accelerants, and individuals.

Kastle-Meyer Test A presumptive blood test.

The DNA profile of the physical fragment collected from a specimen or

Known Reference Profile
suspect, to be tested against the profile of the evidence sample.

Term Definition

Laceration The splitting or tearing of the skin.

Larvae The young of an insect prior to metamorphosis.

Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A device used

Laser to produce a beam of optical radiation by stimulation of electronic,
ionic, or molecular transitions to create energy

A fingerprint left by deposits of the skin’s oils, usually requiring some

Latent Fingerprint
form of treatment in order to visualise it.

Ligature An object used to bind or strangle someone. i.e. a rope.

Technology allowing the fingertips to be scanned rather than rolled in

ink to obtain a fingerprint.

Lividity – See “hypostasis”.

Livor Mortis See “hypostasis”.

Locard's Exchange Principle The theory that there is a mutual transfer of material when two
objects make contact with each other. Under Edmund Locard's
direction one of the first functional crime laboratories was formed in
Lyons, France in 1910

Every contact leaves a trace. A theory stating that when contact occurs
Locard’s Exchange Principle between two items there will be an exchange. In other words anyone
who enters a crime scene will leave something behind or take
something away.

The locations of STR segments in a DNA profile. Loci from evidentiary

and known profile samples are compared to determine a match.

Locus A specific site on the chromosome.

. A new technique used to obtain a DNA profile from a fingerprint or

Low Copy Number – LCN
small amount of tissue.

Luminol A chemical reagent used to visualise latent blood stains.

Term Definition

Mallenable capable of being shaped, bent, or drawn out; flexible.

The way in which death was caused; homicide, suicide, accidental,

Manner of Death
natural, or undetermined.

Mass Killer An individual who kills many people at the same time.

A method of identifying the components of a compound by

Mass Spectrometry
bombarding the sample with electrons.

Medical Examiner The individual who performs autopsies.

Segments of DNA in varying lengths composed of repeating series of

Microsatellites four nucleotide base units. The terms STR markers and genetic marks
also refer to STR sements.
An investigative analytic technique that compares the microscopic
physical characteristics of test samples, such as hair and fibers, to
determine their structure, composition, an dthe similarity or
difference between multiple samples.

Microspectrophotometry – A method of identifying a sample by emitting a beam of electrons

over the specimen and analysing the election emissions created.

Mitigating Circumstances – Factors that may diminish the degree of guilt in a criminal offence,
such as age or influence of drugs.

A form of DNA found in the mitochondria, indicating maternal heritage

Mitochondrial DNA

the carrier of analytes in chromatographic separations; also called the

Mobile Phase
developing solvent.

from latin meaning the Method of operation. The method by which a

Modus Operandi
crime is committed.

A method that studies vertebrate anatomy to discern the patterns,

colors, measurements, gradients, and textures of animal pelts,
Morphological Analysis feathers, bones, fur, hooves, scales, fins, claws, antlers, prints, wings,
and complete or fragmented carcasses that idenitfy the specime as a
member of a species or specific animal.

the genetic materials found in the mitochondria (energy producer)of

mtDNA the cell. mtDNA is passed genetically by the mother and is the same
within the entire maternal lineage.

Multiple Personality Disorder Also known as dissociative identity disorder. A psychological condition
in which the individual appears to have two or more distinct personas.

The desiccation of a body due to very hot and dry conditions, or

exposure to very cold temperatures.

Term Definition
National Centre for the Analysis of Violent Crime. A subdivision of the
FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit.

the genetic material found in the nucleus of the cell that is unique to
every indivdiual, except for identical twins.

NDNAD National DNA Database, the UK’s database of DNA profiles.

Neutron Activation Analysis A technique used on trace evidence by bombarding the sample with
neutrons in a nuclear reactor.

Nucleus The part of the cell containing DNA.

the "brain" of the cell that contains DNA and other mechanisms to run

Term Definition

Odontogram A file containing an individual’s dental information.

An individual specialising in dentistry, particularly bite mark


Odontology The study of the teeth, including their anatomy, growth and diseases.

Orthotolidine A solution used to determine whether a stain contains blood.

Ossification The process by which bone is formed.

A test used to determine whether a blood stain is of animal or human

Ouchterlony Test

Term Definition
Palynology The study of pollen grains and other spores.

A branch of medical science studying the cause, nature and effect of


Evidence which can be read from a specific pattern, such as a show

Pattern Evidence

Perimortem The period of time at or near the time of death.

perpretrator a person who perpetrates or bringa about a crime.

Person of interest" is a term used by law enforcement when

announcing the name of someone involved in a criminal investigation
who has not been arrested or formally accused of a crime. The phrase
Person of Interest
was adopted by the media and widely disseminated, thus most law
enforcement agencies have picked up the term. It has no legal
meaning, but it is a "catchy" term.

Petechial Haemorrhage – A minute, pin-like haemorrhage that occurs beneath the skin.

pH The measure of acidity or alkalinity of a substance.

A substance used alongside hydrogen peroxide which produces a

deep pink colour in the presence of blood.

Physical Evidence Any object relevant to the occurrence of a crime.

characteristics that do no involve a change in the identity of a

Physical Properties
substance, such as odor, color, and density.

The standard constituent of blood in which the various blood cells are

The point of convergence is the intersection of two bloodstain paths,

where the stains come from opposite sides of the impact pattern. The
Point of Convergence
area of convergence is the box formed by the intersection of several
stains from opposite sides of the impact pattern.
A machine used to monitor bodily functions which may change when
an individual lies. Not admissible in court.

Polymer A long-chain molecule composed of many repeated units.

Polymerase Chain Reaction – A technique that replicates a section of a DNA strand, allowing millions
PCR of copies to be produces from a minute sample.

A bloodstain resulting from an accumulation of liquid blood on a


A 19th century system for regularising verbal descriptions of a

Portrait Parle
suspect’s facial features.

Postmortem After death.

Postmortem Interval – PMI

The time since death.

A test used to determine whether a blood sample is of animal or

Precipitin Test
human origin, done so by the treatment of human anti-serum.

The general relaxation of the entire muscular system after death. This
Primary Flaccidity
will usually only last between two to eight hours.

A fragment of DNA which carried the complementary code for a base


Prostate Specific Antigen – . A substance in human seminal fluid used to confirm the presence of
PSA human semen.

A method of gathering speculative information regarding a suspect’s

Psychological Profile
psychological makeup in order to aid the investigation.

Psychological Stress
A device used to measure stress levels in a recorded voice.

A personality disorder defined by specific antisocial behaviour and

often including a lack of guilt or remorse.
An injury caused by the piercing of the body, often by a hand-held
Puncture Wound

One of the final changes to take place in the human body, essentially
the anaerobic bacterial digestion of the remains.

Term Definition

Any item containing writing that requires analysis to confirm the likes
Questioned Documents
of authorship or authentication.

Term Definition

A pattern formation in a fingerprint in which a loop forms and opens

towards the thumb.

Star-shaped fractures formed when a sheet of glass is pierced by a

Radial Fractures
bullet, originating on the opposite side to the initial impact.

A collection of items used to process a rape victim for items of

Rape Kit
evidence that may indicate the perpetrator.

The measure of degree through which light passes through a

Refractive Index –RI
particular substance.

Restriction Fragment Length The original method for obtaining a DNA profile, in which the
Polymorphism (RFLP) molecule is cut into pieces and the different lengths analysed.

The presence of absence of a particular antibody, allowing for further

Rhesus Factor
differentiation between blood of different individuals.

The endings, bifurcations, enclosures and similar ridge details in a

Ridge Characteristics

Rifling The lands and grooves cut into the barrels of a gun.
The stiffening of the body after death due to a chemical reaction
Rigor Mortis occurring in the muscles. Usually appears between two and eight
hours after death, lasting between sixteen and twenty-four hours.

Term Definition

A process which may occur during putrefaction in which parts of the

body are converted into adipocere (see “adipocere”).

A smaller bloodstain that originated during the formation of the

Satellite Stain
parent stain as a result of blood impacting a surface.

Transition from small-scale production to production of large

industrial quantities.

Scanning Electron A device which uses beams of electrons to form the image of a
Microscope –SEM specimen.

Scent Pad Used to store a scent for use with trailing dogs.

Secondary Flaccidity The secondary relaxation of the body’s muscles following death.

Nutrient material constituted such that it will support the growth of

Selective medium
specific organisms while inhibiting the growth of others.

Seminal Pertaining to semen.

The presence in the blood or other tissues of pathogenic

Sepsis microorganisms or their toxins; the condition associated with such

Decoding a strand of DNA or gene into the specific order of its

nucleotides: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. This analysis can
be done manually or with automated equipment. Sequencing a gene
requires analyzing an average of 40,000 nucleotides.

Serial Crime Any type of crime occurring in a pattern indicating a single offender.
An individual who has murdered three or more people over a period
Serial Killer
of more than a month with a cooling-off period in between.

Study of blood serum and reactions between the antibodies and

antigens therein.

Serrated Saw-like. Having a row of sharp, tooth-like projections.

A method used to obtain a DNA profile after amplification through

Short Tandem Repeats (STR)
PCR techniques. STRs are short sequences in the DNA molecule that
repeat themselves at various points in the genome.

Signature Crime A crime scene bearing the individual ‘stamp’ of a particular offender.

Cells or protein extracts from microorganisms, grown in large

Single-cell protein
quantities for use as protein supplements.

Slash Wound a wound where the length of the injury is greater than its depth.

Slippage The sloughing off of the flesh on a cadaver.

SOCO Scene of Crime Officer

Somatic cell gene therapy involves the insertion of genes into cells for
therapeutic purposes; for example, to induce the treated cells to
produce a protein that the body is missing. It does not affect genetic
Somatic cell gene therapy
makeup of a patient's offspring and generally does not change all, or
even most, cells in the recipient. Somatic cell gene therapy is only one
way of applying the science of genomics to improve health care.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer The transfer of a nucleus from a fully differentiated cell into an egg
that has had its nucleus removed.

Somatic cells Cells other than sex or germ cells.

Spalling The cracking of concrete in a fire, indicating how hot it burned.

Spectrometry The detection of wavelengths of light.

The removal of introns and joining of exons to form a continuous
coding sequence in RNA.

stab wound a wound where the depth of the injury is greater than the length.

the fixed absorbing medium of analytes in chromotographic

Stationary Phase

Minute burn marks left by gunpowder as it leaves the gun, the term
used to describe the circular pattern of dots created around a gunshot
wound when a firearm is discharged in very close proximity to the

One of three codons in messenger RNA that signal the end of the
Stop codon
amino acid chain in protein synthesis.

Strangulation The prevention of respiration by the compression of the air passage.

Fine markings left behind on an item, such as on a bullet, caused by

rifling in the barrel.

Segments of DNA in varying lengths composed of repeating series of

STRs-Short Tandem Repeats
four nucleotide base units. The terms Microsatellites, STR markers,
and genetic marks also refer to STR sements.

Structural gene A gene that codes for a protein, such as an enzyme.

Substrate Material acted on by an enzyme.

A gene that codes for an antibiotic that can kill the host bacterial cell.
It is genetically modified into the bacterium along with a molecular
Suicide gene switch that is controlled by a nutrient in the environment. When the
nutrient disappears, the suicide gene is switched on and the bacterium

A method of developing latent fingerprints using the fumes of

Super Glue Fuming cyanoacrylate or a similar substance, which adheres to the oils in the
fingerprint, visualising it.
Suppressor gene A gene that can reverse the effect of a mutation in other genes.

A hypothesis-driven field of research that creates predictive

Systems biology mathematical models of complex biological processes or organ

Term Definition

White blood cells that are produced in the bone marrow but mature in
the thymus. They are important in the body’s defense against
T lymphocytes (T-cells) certain bacteria and fungi, help B lymphocytes make antibodies and
help in the recognition and rejection of foreign tissues. T lymphocytes
may also be important in the body's defense against cancers.

Tactile Hairs utility hairs such as whiskers

Tape Lift An adhesive used to lift trace evidence from a crime scene or object.

The process of transferring discoveries made by basic research

Technology transfer institutions, such as universities and government laboratories, to the
commercial sector for development into useful products and services.

A molecule that serves as the pattern for synthesizing another


Sequence of DNA bases that tells the RNA polymerase to stop

synthesizing RNA.

The total three-dimensional shape of a protein that is essential to

Tertiary structure
protein function.

Compounds that are used to treat specific diseases or medical


A technique used for separating a sample into its components based

Thin-Layer Chromatography
on the speed at which they move up a plate coated thinly with silica
A lymphoid organ in the lower neck, the proper functioning of which in
early life is necessary for development of the immune system.

Tissue culture In vitro growth in nutrient medium of cells isolated from tissue.

Tissue plasminogen activator A protein produced in small amounts in the body that aids in dissolving
(tPA) blood clots.

Tomography Obtaining an X-ray image of a selected layer in an object.

Toxicology The study of drugs, poisons and their effects on the body.

Toxin A poisonous substance produced by certain microorganisms or plants.

Minute quantities of objects found at the crime scene, including fibre,

Trace Evidence
hair, glass, seed, and soil.

The application of chemistry, physics and geology to identify and

Trace Evidence Unit
compare crime-scene evidence

Trajectory The path of a fired projectile.

Transcription Synthesis of messenger (or any other) RNA on a DNA template.

The process whereby a specialized cell de-differentiates and re-

differentiates into a different cell type; or the process whereby an
Transdifferentiation adult stem cell from a specific tissue type becomes a cell type from a
very different tissue (for example a nerve stem cell differentiates into
a kidney cell).

Transfer of genetic material from one cell to another by means of a

virus or phage vector.

Infection of a cell with nucleic acid from a virus, resulting in replication

of the complete virus.

RNA molecules that carry amino acids to sites on ribosomes where

Transfer RNA (tRNA)
proteins are synthesized.
A bloodstain resulting from contact between a blood-bearing surface
Transfer Stain
and another surface.

Change in the genetic structure of an organism by the incorporation of

foreign DNA.

An organism formed by the insertion of foreign genetic material into

Transgenic organism the germ line cells of organisms. Recombinant DNA techniques are
commonly used to produce transgenic organisms.

Process by which the information on a messenger RNA molecule is

used to direct the synthesis of a protein.

A segment of DNA that can move around and be inserted at several

sites in bacterial DNA or in a phage, thus alerting the host's DNA.

Trauma A physical injury caused by external violence.

Tumor necrosis factors Rare proteins of the immune system that appear to destroy some
(TNFs) types of tumor cells without affecting healthy cells.

Term Definition

U.S. Postal Inspection System

The primary law enforcement arm of the United States Postal Service

Ulnar A loop pattern in a fingerprint which opens towards the little finger

UV light, used to fluoresce various substances, including urine, saliva

Ultra Violet
and semen.

a procedure that applies ultrasonic waves to image internal organs or

structures. Ultrasounds can sometimes probe deeper than X-Rays can.

Term Definition
A preparation that contains an antigen, consisting of whole disease-
causing organisms (killed or weakened) or parts of such organisms,
Vaccine that is used to confer immunity against the disease that the organisms
cause. Vaccine preparations can be natural, synthetic or derived by
recombinant DNA technology.

Vector The agent (e.g., plasmid or virus) used to carry new DNA into a cell.

ViCAP – Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, the FBI’s nationwide

data information centre.

The study of victim information in order to obtain details of a

perpetrator’s opportunity and selection process.

An elementary viral particle consisting of genetic material and a

protein covering.

Virology Study of viruses.

Virulence Ability to infect or cause disease.

A submicroscopic organism that contains genetic information but

Virus cannot reproduce itself. To replicate, it must invade another cell and
use parts of that cell’s reproductive machinery.

The Temperature of the internal organs, particularly those within the

Visceral Temperature
abdomen and thorax.

The fluid filling the eyeball. This changes after death, potentially being
Vitreous Humor
useful in determination of the post-mortem interval.

A graph electronically composed of the amplitude and vibrations of

the human voice.

Term Definition

White blood cells Leukocytes.

white light is also referred to as natural light and it includes all the
white light wavelengths of light within the visible portion of the electromegnetic

A pattern within a fingerprint in which the ridge makes at least one

complete circuit.

The effect of an individual’s body fat feeds a smouldering flame,

Wick Effect
burning the person to ash without surrounding items being burned.

Wild type The form of an organism that occurs most frequently in nature.

An altered bloodstain pattern resulting from an object moving through

Wipe Pattern
a preexisting wet bloodstain.

The third molar teeth, usually erupting in the late teens to early
Wisdom Teeth

Term Definition

Synthetic chemicals believed to be resistant to environmental

Xenobiotics degradation. A branch of biotechnology called bioremediation is
seeking to develop biological methods to degrade such compounds.

The transplantation of living organs, cells or tissues from animals into


an electromagnetic radiation photograph of short wavelengths that

x-ray can penetrate solids to reveal images of obsured objects. X-rays are
commonly used for contraband and medical issue detection.

An essential technique for determining the three-dimensional

X-ray crystallography structure of biological molecules. This information aids in the
discovery of products that will interact with the biological molecule.

The scattering of X rays by the atoms of a crystal. The diffraction

X-ray Diffraction pattern shows the structure of the crystal and can identify substances
such as drugs and pharmaceuticals.

Term Definition

Y Incision – An incision made during an autopsy, a cut from shoulder to

Y Incision shoulder, meeting at the sternum, and down to the groin. This exposes
the internal organs for examination.

A general term for single-celled fungi that reproduce by budding.

Yeast Some yeasts can ferment carbohydrates (starches and sugars) and
thus are important in brewing and baking.