About this event

  • Date and time Mon 15 Feb 2021 from 5:30pm to 6:35pm
  • Location Online
  • Organised by Medical Genetics

The sixth webinar in The genetics of… series. In this webinar, we will hear from expert speakers about the way that DNA has revolutionised forensic science. Participants will learn about the unique regions in the genetic code that allow fingerprints to identify individuals and how these became the mainstay of forensic medicine. Join us to hear how direct-to-consumer testing has helped to solve crimes and how molecular information is stored on the national DNA database.

During this webinar you will:

  • Understand DNA fingerprinting and how it can be used in forensic studies
  • Recognise the unexpected uses of genetic data and how it has been used to solve crimes
  • Follow the history of discovering markers in the genetic code that are unique to individuals
  • Learn from real-life examples how applying this science works in forensics 

The genetics of... series has been developed following feedback from delegates attending the Genetics of COVID-19 webinars. Presented by the Medical Genetics section of the Royal Society of Medicine, this series of talks will focus on the role of genetics in different areas of health and well-being.

This activity has been supported by a grant from Roche Products Limited. Roche Products Limited has had no input into the arrangement or educational content of this activity.

A CPD certificate with CPD credit will be issued to those joining the webinar live as well as those who watch the recording afterwards. Certificates will be issued 7 days after the webinar to those who watch it live and after 30 days for those that watch the recording. 

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Key speakers

Walther Parson

Professor Walther Parson

Head of Forensic Genomics, Institute of Legal Medicine, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria

Speaker's biography

Walther Parson holds an associate professorship at the Institute of Legal Medicine, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria and an adjunct professorship at the Pennsylvania State University. Together with his colleagues he set up the Austrian National DNA Database Laboratory in 1997 in Innsbruck, where he currently supervises the High Through-put DNA Database Laboratory and the research group Forensic Genomics. Professor Parson is representing Austria in international boards including the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) DNA Working Group and the European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP) and he is an elected active member of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He served as President of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) from 2015-2019 and is currently Vice-President. His research focuses on various fields of genetics and genomics and he entertains collaborations with other fields of research such as anthropology, archaeology, mathematics and history. His group was repeatedly consigned to handle international requests on Forensic DNA fingerprinting of victims of mass fatalities (e.g., the 2004 Tsunami, the 1973 victims Chile, the 2014 Missing Mexican students), international human identification cases (e.g., the Russian Tsar family Romanov) and identification of historic individuals (e.g., Friedrich von Schiller, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). His group developed (1999-2006) and has since been curating the EDNAP Mitochondrial DNA Population Database (EMPOP; https://empop.online), the world’s largest forensic mitochondrial DNA database for forensic purposes, as well as the STRs for Identity ENFSI Reference Database (STRidER; https://strider.online) to quality control and disseminate Short Tandem Repeat allele frequencies and sequenced alleles. His current research is focussing on predictive DNA analysis, also known as Forensic DNA Phenotyping. He and his group partner in the EU Horizon 2020 Research Project VISAGE (http://www.visage-h2020.eu), for which they develop and validate molecular genetic tools for the prediction of appearance, ancestry and age.

Professor Richard Shepherd

Retired Consultant Forensic Pathologist

Speaker's biography

Professor Shepherd has worked in the Home Office and as a Coronial Forensic Pathologist for 40 years with extensive experience in all types of natural and unnatural death.

Denise Syndercombe-Court

Professor Denise Syndercombe-Court

Professor of Forensic Genetics, King’s Forensics, King’s College London

Speaker's biography

Professor Syndercombe-Court is a geneticist, statistician, editor and author of medical and forensic text-books, with over twenty years’ experience in forensic research, evidential examination and an accredited expert witness, giving evidence on many occasions. Her appointment as a Professor in Forensic Genetics at King’s College London has allowed her to teach forensic genetics at under- and post-graduate levels and to supervise those undertaking research for their doctorates.

Her expertise relates to human DNA analysis for identification, both analysis and interpretation, and she specialises in the use of molecular biology techniques involving sequencing in the analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, particularly those presented in complex matrices, methylated DNA and RNA in all body fluids, phenotypic and ancestral inference. She leads an ISO17025 Ministry of Justice accredited laboratory as part of King’s Forensics. She is a member of several professional associations (Biochemical Society, British Academy of Forensic Sciences, Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences, Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Academy of Forensic Medical Sciences, Institute of Biological and Medical Sciences, International Society of Forensic Genetics, Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Statistical Society), represents the UK on the European DNA profiling group, is the International Society of Forensic Genetics representative to the UK Forensic Regulator’s DNA Working Group, a member of the Home Office Biometrics and Forensic Ethics Group and a member of the BSI Committee on Standards in Forensic Science.

Her research group has been the UK partner, with other European Forensic Institutes, undertaking research in the European forensic arena in STADNAP, SNPforID and EuroforGen, presenting her research and attending international meetings. She has an active interest in promoting an ethical view of science and especially the use of DNA injustice to a wider audience via television, radio and external lecture


View the programme here

Welcome and introduction
How DNA helps solve crimes

Professor Denise Syndercombe-Court, Professor of Forensic Genetics, King’s Forensics, King’s College London

From forensic genetics to forensic genomics

Professor Walther Parson, Head of Forensic Genomics, Institute of Legal Medicine, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria

What DNA means to a forensic pathologist

Professor Richard Shepherd, Retired Consultant Forensic Pathologist

Panel discussion
Close of meeting



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The genetics of musicality, intelligence and sporting ability: Episode 4

The fourth webinar in The genetics of… series. In this webinar, specialists will be exploring the role that genetics plays in musical and sporting ability and whether there is evidence to suggest that intelligence could be inherited. We will also be joined by the incredibly talented musical guest Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his mother Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason

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The genetics of criminality: Episode 5

The fifth webinar in The genetics of… series. This webinar will explore the role genetics plays in influencing criminal activity and violent behaviour. We will be hearing from leading researchers in this fascinating field of science, arguing for and against the existence of genetic factors and exploring the role of epigenetics in the study of criminality. 

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The genetics of addiction: Episode 7

The seventh webinar in The genetics of… series. In this webinar, participants will have the chance to recognise the arguments for and against the role of genetics in addictive behaviour. Leaders in their fields will engage in a discussion to explore the role of DNA in driving addiction and to consider how epigenetic factors display the interplay of nature versus nurture.

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The genetics of ancient DNA and health: Episode 8

The eighth webinar in The genetics of… series. This unique and exciting webinar will allow participants to explore studies of ancient DNA and understand how it can inform us about the health of our species today. We have an unmissable chance to hear from specialists in the field blazing trails and harnessing key messages hidden within the genetics of our predecessors. 

*Registration for this webinar will close 2 hours prior to the start time. You will receive the webinar link 2 hours before the meeting. Late registrations will not be accepted. 

Special rates for difficult times 
The RSM wishes to offer healthcare professionals continued learning opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic. The RSM’s weekly COVID-19 Series webinars remain free of charge, while there will be small charges to register for other online education. These fees will enable the RSM to continue its programme of activities and will apply during the course of the pandemic. 

Webinar recordings will be available for registered delegates up to 30 days after the live webinar, via Zoom. The link will be sent 24 hours after the webinar takes place. 

This webinar will be recorded and stored by the Royal Society of Medicine and may be distributed in future on various internet channels.  

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