Marie Payne Graham Lecture| Understanding Forensic DNA: Its Background, Capabilities, and Limitations| 6PM Chemistry Auditorium


John M. Butler is an internationally recognized expert in forensic DNA analysis and holds a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Virginia. He has written five textbooks on Forensic DNA Typing (2001, 2005, 2010, 2012, and 2015) and given hundreds of invited talks to scientists, lawyers, and members of the general public throughout the United States and in 26 other countries so far. In 2022, he co-authored a new book, Understanding Forensic DNA with Cambridge University Press, to improve public understanding of the field.  

Dr. Butler’s research, first conducted at the FBI Laboratory and now at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), pioneered the methods used today worldwide for DNA testing in criminal casework, paternity investigations, and many DNA ancestry assessments.  He has been honored in multiple White House ceremonies (2002 and 2015) for his work in advancing DNA testing.

In 2011, named him the worldwide high-impact author in legal medicine and forensic science over the previous decade. A 2020 Stanford University analysis of eight million scientists published since 1960 put Dr. Butler as #7 (#1 from the United States) out of 10,159 researchers worldwide in the subcategory of legal medicine and forensic science. He has received the Gold Medal (2008) and Silver Medal (2002) from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Scientific Prize of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (2003), the Paul L. Kirk Award from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (2017), and the Magnus Mukoro Award for Integrity in Forensic Science from the NYC Legal Aid Society (2020).

Dr. Butler is a NIST Fellow (highest scientific rank at NIST) and Special Assistant to the Director for Forensic Science in the Special Programs Office. He served as the Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Forensic Science from 2013 to 2017. In 2019, he was elected the President of the International Society for Forensic Genetics, which has 1300 members in 79 countries. Dr. Butler and his wife have six children, all of whom have been proven to be theirs through the power of DNA testing.

Title for Graham Lecture (7 October 2022):

“Understanding Forensic DNA: Its Background, Capabilities, and Limitations”

DNA testing and forensic evidence play an important role in the criminal justice system. The media regularly reports on how DNA samples change the course of important investigations. This presentation will discuss the background of modern forensic DNA testing and links to the University of Virginia Department of Chemistry. The capabilities and limitations of DNA analysis will also be examined in the context of the 1998 Nature article titled “Jefferson fathered slave’s last child.”   

Time and Location: 
6pm | Chemistry Building Auditorium
Academic Year: 
Event Date: 
Friday, October 7, 2022
Dr. John M. Butler
Speaker Title: 
Fellow and Special Assistant to the Director of Forensic Science, National Institute of Standards and Technology