Dr. Julie Heinig, Forensic DNA scientist at DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC), returned to college this February, not as a student but as a guest instructor of DNA and Forensic Science at three Kentucky law schools. Dr. Heinig spent two hours at all three schools: Salmon B. Chase School of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Brandeis School of Law at University of Kentucky, and the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University.
Dr. Heinig’s lecture was composed of two main parts: the science of forensic DNA testing and an open discussion of her experiences working for government and private laboratories. Students were introduced to the basics of DNA and the biology of forensic DNA fingerprinting for human identification. This was followed by a discussion of real-world applications, with Dr. Heinig detailing first-hand accounts of her experience in both the public sector, working in a government crime lab in Cleveland, Ohio, and in her current position at DDC’s private, independent forensic DNA lab in Fairfield, Ohio.
Dr. Heinig has a unique perspective as an analyst who began her career not only inside forensic laboratories analyzing samples, but also out in the field, at crime scenes, collecting forensic evidence. Today, at DDC, a case may still take her back to a crime scene, but her primary site of expertise is the laboratory, carefully analyzing DNA evidence and preparing or interpreting the forensic reports. Regularly testifying in court as a DNA expert witness, Dr. Heinig’s clients include both law enforcement officials and defense attorneys.
In her lecture, Dr. Heinig emphasized the importance of focusing strictly on the science of the evidence, without bias— a policy that a neutral and independent laboratory such as DDC stands by. The lecture reflected this objectivity with many case stories that demonstrated the impartial power of DNA for identification.
Dr. Heinig hopes that through the lectures at these prestigious Kentucky law schools, students are imparted with knowledge that will help them in their pursuit of justice, wherever their careers take them—whether it be the District Attorney’s office, or the Public Defender’s office, or in a private practice.