Real Life CSI: Professor Dan Krane sheds light on DNA analysis

Professor Dan Krane“I’ve never seen more than five minutes straight of any single episode,” Dan Krane, Ph.D., said of ‘CSI,’ “though I do know the guy who is the inspiration for Mark Harmon’s character.”

Since Mark Harmon plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs on “NCIS,” it isn’t hard to believe that Krane has never seen a full episode of “CSI,” though his work is often compared to the popular forensic investigation series.

Since 1993, Dan Krane has been a research scientist and professor at Wright State University. However, in 2002 he founded Forensic Bioinformatics, a compant that reviews DNA results for legal cases.

According to Krane, defense attorneys usually contact Forensic Bioinformatics when they find that they need to defend their clients against DNA evidence.

“They tend to panic…because they feel it ?can’t be overturned,’” said Krane.

When Krane’s company receives the case, they gather the materials and their analysts use Genophiler®, a software product developed at WSU, to review and generate a report about the evidence in question. If the attorney needs a consultant, or expert witness, to explain the findings to a jury, Krane steps in.

The way Krane tells it, most people who work in crime labs hold undergraduate degrees and may not have a deep understanding of DNA.

“It’s like following a recipe,” said Krane. “When something doesn’t turn out right, a master chef tries to find out what went wrong. A regular person just shrugs their shoulders.”

Krane said educating the general public and crime analysts about DNA is a “big part of what’s keeping me going.”

“Sometimes people put too much weight behind DNA results when it is very easy for those results to be misleading,” said Krane.

He also said that most basic research scientists have to wait a long time to see the effects of their work, but with Forensic Bioinformatics he gets to make an impact on society right away.

Tracy Donovan, a WSU student who took Krane’s Cells and Genes Biology class last fall, said it was easy to see how the course material could be applied outside of class.

“I think his background in [DNA analysis] made it easier for him to explain to us,” said Donovan.

Chair and professor of the biology department David Goldstein said Krane’s work shows students that the things they are learning have real-world applications.

“Having faculty who are nationally and internationally known is important to give Wright State a reputation in research,” said Goldstein. “The more people know about Wright State, the better.”

“I’ve testified five or six times a year out of five to six hundred cases,” said Krane.

Krane often receives only a few days’ notice before jetting off to a trial.

“I’m probably the only faculty member with an overnight bag always packed,” said Krane.

He also notes that after the first few times getting on a trans-Atlantic flight with two hours’ notice it becomes less exciting.

“The biggest problem by far is it getting in the way of meeting the school bus,” said Krane. “Everything else can wait.”

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