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Forensic DNA Recovery and Amplification from Metal Surfaces


Project Description

The interaction of DNA with metal surfaces is likely to be complex with the composition of the metal surface with alloy composition, surface oxidation state and texture all being contributing factors to how the DNA is bound to the material surface. It is well known that DNA can be an efficient chelator of metal ions as evidenced by the requirement for increased magnesium ion concentrations in PCR reaction which contain higher amounts of DNA than usual. This metal chelating ability may be a contributor to the poor yield of PCR product obtained from samples recovered from metal surfaces since many of the metals involved will be inhibitors of the DNA polymerases used in PCR reactions.

The main aim of the project is to identify the problems in recovering DNA from metal surfaces, whether this is due to the inability to extract DNA from the surface or due to inhibitory factors being co-extracted with the DNA. The Project will start by using known amounts of purified DNA applied to metal surfaces to determine how much DNA can be recovered using different extraction conditions, as outlined above, and what contaminants if any are also extracted. This will inform experiments involving a clean-up step and determination of impacts on PCR efficiency. This will be determined by quantitative PCR either by Taqman analysis or PCR followed by gel electrophoresis and photographic quantitation. As shown above the process will be repeated using known amounts of cellular material (obtained from tissue culture) and finally using touch DNA to mimic actual forensic samples.

The effect of different metals and alloys including titanium coated glass on the process will also be assessed. The chemical nature of the metal surfaces will also be considered such as oxidation state cleanliness and the surface texture at a microscopic and gross level. The techniques used for this part of the project will include FTIR, Raman and Atomic absorption spectroscopy as well as electro spray mass spectrometry and scanning electron microscopy.


We are looking for a research driven, problem solving and highly motivated student with an excellent degree in chemistry, materials science or biology to join our multi-disciplinary team working at the forefront of challenges in forensic science. The ability to think outside the box and come up with cutting-edge research ideas will be a unique advantage.

In addition, the successful candidate will complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Development, which integrates training in quantitative and qualitative research methods, and runs in parallel with their doctoral research, providing a framework for the development of core research skills, creative methodological design, data processing, public engagement, communication, and research leadership.

To register their interest candidates are requested to submit a full CV and cover letter, these should be sent to Dr Alexander Gray () and Dr Herve Menard (). The closing date is 31st May 2019..

The studentship is based at the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS), University of Dundee. Informal inquiries can be made to Dr Alexander Gray ( ) and Dr Herve Menard ().

Funding Notes

These positions are available to self-funding students only and a laboratory bench fee is also required. Non-UK or non-EU students may be admitted to the programme, but will be required to pay full overseas fees and laboratory research costs if accepted. Non UK nationals must have an ILETS score of 6.5 or better.

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