DNA - the master molecules that solve crime
Nabila Farah Rahman
On 18 of February 2010, the Department of Life Sciences and Life Sciences Club of North South University (NSU) held a daylong event celebrating the advances of DNA technology. Students were seen in NSU Plaza presenting posters that depicted diverse applications of this double helix structure. The participants of this particular event ranged from freshmen to 4th year undergraduates of North South University as well as several students from the University of Dhaka. Their topics covered agriculture, medicine, forensics, gene therapy, nanotechnology and even origami. The presenters explained, answered questions or simply stood vigilantly and nervously beside their posters until their turn came to be judged. A mixed population of NSU students wrote reports and took snapshots while the judges scrutinized the colourful posters on display.
As the poster presentation ended, students, faculties and distinguished guests took their seat for the key event of the day which was a seminar on 'DNA Technology in Criminal Investigations'. M.A. Kashem, Chairman, Board of Governors, North South University Foundation, was present as Chief Guest, Prof. Hafiz G.A. Siddiqi, Vice Chancellor, NSU, was present as Special Guest while Prof. SAM Khairul Bashar, Pro-Vice Chancellor, NSU, was the Chair of the session. Also present was Dr. Abdul Khaleque Chairman Deparment of Life Sciences, NSU.
Professor Sharif Akhteruzzaman, the National Technical Advisor of National Forensic DNA Profiling Lab in Dhaka Medical College, as the main speaker of the event, imparted his knowledge and experience on how DNA technology had been and is continuing to be utilized for solving crimes. He spoke of the very first case that was solved through this method, where 5000 villagers were put through DNA screening in order to find the criminal of a murder case. Although he tried to evade the authorities, Colin Pitchfork, faced with irrefutable DNA evidence that proved his guilt, had to confess.
“Only 5 to 10 cells from blood drops, garments or even a cigarette butt may be enough to implicate a criminal due to the unique unchanging nature of DNA”, said Prof. Akhteruzzaman. He compared DNA to fingerprints and explained how powerful evidence it can be. He went on emphasizing its uses in solving paternity disputes, immigration disputes, inheritance disputes, as well as the identification of victims in natural or manmade disasters.
He gave examples of several high profile cases which had been solved using DNA evidence such as the Jamaluddin Murder, the baby swap in a Chittagong hospital, and the child trafficking case where a police officer claimed 17 children of similar age to be his own.
Afterwards, M.A. Kashem, Chairman, Board of Governors, North South University Foundation, addressed the students, congratulating them on successfully portraying the uses of DNA technology in various fields. He explained how DNA evidence acts as deterrent to crime and expressed the need to keep pace with other countries in further developing this technology. In addition, he regarded the day's event as a positive step for both public and private universities to be working together.
The prize distribution for the poster competition came next. The first prize was earned by Taha, an undergraduate from the Department of Life Sciences, NSU, for his poster on 'p53 gene in Knockout Technology'. The second prize was jointly won by Muna Tamimi from NSU, and Ahsan Habib Polash from the University of Dhaka. The third prize went to Marie Sintaha, graduate student from the University of Dhaka. This was followed by a short quiz competition for students taking the general course on Biology in North South University. Six students who had won a previous selection round from among ninety or so others were divided into two groups of three. They participated in buzzer rounds, and a rapid fire round where they had to answer several biology related questions. At the end of the competition three students from Group A, headed by Tania Hassan from the Department of Environmental Sciences received the winning prize.
The session was concluded with the distribution of another prize which had been jointly won by students from the Department of Life Sciences of North South University in a poster competition on 30 of January 2010 during the ' International Symposium on Cancer and Developmental Biology'.