Science News – September 12, 2013


The new chief medical examiner in Los Angeles will oversee major changes to the department; the National Institute of Standards and Technology is working on updating a mobile guide; and researchers from the United States have developed methods for detecting sarin gas. Here is the round up of news for the week:


Dr. Mark Fajardo was recently sworn in as the new chief medical examiner of Los Angeles County’s Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. He will oversee a $24-million lab renovation that will

include new equipment and expanded space to perform autopsies

. He will also implement management changes to ensure that the department can better keep pace with the 5,700 autopsies that it performs annually.


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is

revising its mobile forensics guide due to the rapid increase of mobile technology

. In order to help forensic investigators quickly process evidence from a wide variety of technology, the newly revised guide, Special Publication 800-101 Revision 1: Guidelines on Mobile Device Forensics, will include a triage decision tree that provides a “starting point to align investigations with existing policies and procedures, such as determining if circumstances exist to extract data onsite or transport the device to a laboratory.”


During the past several years, researchers from the United States have been working on methods to

confirm the presence of the deadly nerve agent sarin in order to be prepared in the case of chemical attacks

. Current techniques use standard chemistry and forensic instrumentation such as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify sarin and to possibly determine its source.


The New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld a large fine against the University of New Mexico for its actions to intimidate a forensic pathologist,

forcing him to withdraw as an expert witness in a medical malpractice case against the university

. The Pathology Blawg reports that while the university was exerting pressure, the Office of the Medical Investigator for the state supported the forensic pathologist and his consultation on the case.


In a recent

US News & Report

article highlighting popular college majors that lead to jobs in growing fields,

biometrics and forensic science rank second and third, respectively

. Both these industries are expected to grow significantly over the next decade due to the increasing desire to solve crimes with forensic evidence.

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