Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $150,000)
The Hennepin County Sheriffs Office DNA lab intends to use funds from this award to implement a comprehensive automated robotic system that will perform DNA extractions, set-up quantification plates, normalize the samples following qPCR and set-up amplification plates with minimal user input. We anticipate the time required to complete a DNA case will be reduced because much of the manual, labor-intensive laboratory bench work will be performed by the automated system.
A current workflow bottle neck in this laboratory is complex profile interpretation and report generation. The implementation of the automated workflow will require less analyst bench time so they can devote more time to the choke points in our workflow.
Improving operating efficiency by decreasing the number of labor intensive hands-on steps can improve the labs metrics including turnaround time (TAT). In addition to increased sample through-put, DNA automation can greatly improve the quality of forensic samples due to the fast, accurate and hands free manipulation of samples. Taking the analyst out of routine sample handling will promote less error and less contamination.
Continuing scientific education is critical to ensuring high quality forensic science services. Analysts need to stay abreast with new trends in technology and work processes in order to provide the most up to date technology and implement best practices procedures to the lab. Additionally, conference workshops provide direct interaction with scientists who have specialized skills in a new or developing field of study. Participating and networking with other like-minded forensic practitioners in these workshops gives our scientific staff the best opportunity to implement new processes or technology that could potentially improve laboratory services.