Robin Cotton, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Biomedical Forensic Sciences Program
Dr. Cotton’s experience in the forensic application of DNA analysis began at Cellmark Diagnostics in 1988 and she served as Laboratory Director of the Cellmark Laboratory from 1994 to 2006. The laboratory conducted DNA identification analysis of biological evidence and participated in numerous high profile cases around the country. As Director, Dr. Cotton was responsible for overseeing development and implementation of new techniques for use in the laboratory as well as participating in casework and testifying in court.
Dr. Cotton has B.S. and M.S. degrees from Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from University of California at Irvine in 1980. Prior to joining Cellmark in 1988 she did post-doctoral research at the University of Iowa and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland.
In the past 15 years she has testified as an expert in DNA analysis in about 200 criminal cases, in almost all 50 states. Dr. Cotton serves on the Editorial Board on the Journal of Forensic Sciences and served as an elected member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board for a four year term ending in 2006.
In October of 2006 Dr. Cotton joined the faculty at the Boston University School of Medicine to be the Director of the Biomedical Forensic Sciences Program. She teaches courses in Forensic DNA Analysis and Advanced DNA Analysis.
Dr. Cotton is the recent recipient of an NIJ Training Grant aimed at providing forensic DNA laboratories with the resources to enhance mixture training.
Establishing interpretation guidelines to cover most scenarios of mixture data observed in casework is difficult due to the large number of variable scenarios encountered in casework. Training analysts in the interpretation of mixtures is also difficult for a number of reasons, including the lack of training materials produced specifically for mixture interpretation and the variation in the background and experience of DNA analysts in training. The goal of this project is to provide enhanced training for complex DNA mixture interpretation through the development of carefully designed training tools.
She is also currently working on research pertaining to optimizing Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA amplification. By modifying amplification parameters, Dr. Cotton hopes to develop a method for reliable, reproducible and timely amplification of low levels of DNA whilst eliminating the need to increase cycle number, hence allelic “drop-in”.