CILSE doctoral candidate Carolyn Lewis awarded Graduate Research Fellowship Grant

Dec. 16, 2020

Lewis has been awarded a $49,994 Graduate Research Fellowship Grant (GRF) towards her research.

Carolyn Lewis

Carolyn Lewis, Ph.D. candidate in the Center for Integrative Life Sciences Education (CILSE), has been awarded a $49,994 Graduate Research Fellowship Grant (GRF) towards her research: Developmental evaluation of a combinatorial qPCR multiplex for forensic body fluid identification. The grant is through the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Lewis is one of 23 GRF recipients for the fiscal year 2020, and she is one of a handful at VCU to receive this funding.

Understanding the biological source of forensic evidence is important for crime scene reconstruction and story corroboration of witnesses and/or suspects. This step of the forensic workflow is tedious and not all-inclusive, meaning one must test for each body fluid separately, which consumes valuable evidentiary sample. To address this concern, Lewis is developing a molecular-based method for body fluid identification that can be implemented into DNA analysis workflows within crime labs. The quantitative-PCR assay targets both microRNA and bacterial DNA sequences in order to predict the biological source of a bodily fluid sample.

“My overall goal is to reduce sample consumption for body fluid testing in forensic casework by developing a more comprehensive analysis method,” says Lewis. “I thrive on knowing that my ideas have the potential to streamline and improve the way forensic scientists analyze evidence samples in the future.”