In September, the Director of ICMP’s Forensic Science Department, Dr Thomas Parsons, was awarded the 2015 Scientific Prize by the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG). Dr Parsons is only the tenth person since 1987 to receive the award for outstanding scientific work in the field of forensic genetics, which is presented at two-year intervals but only when it is deemed that there is a recipient who merits the accolade.
Dr Parsons was honored for his signal contribution to genetic science, including his formulation of “the most efficient protocols and interpretation guidelines” for analyzing mitochondrial DNA and maximizing yields when extracting DNA from old and/or degraded bone samples – two of the key elements in human remains identification. The Prize cites Dr. Parsons’ “work in human mitochondrial DNA analysis and the identification of victims of war and disaster.”
Presenting the award at the ISFG’s biennial Congress in Krakow, Poland, ISFG President Dr. Mechthild Prinz noted that in addition to stimulating the field of forensic science, Dr Parsons “has presented and defended his research successfully in the highest international courts and has been a major driving force in the establishment of a truly international organization with the aim of resolving the plight of those in search of missing persons.”
Dr. Parsons joined ICMP as Director of Forensic Sciences in 2006. On a number of occasions, he has provided expert evidence at war crimes trials before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague. Dr. Parsons supervises ICMP’s interdisciplinary program of forensic science in the recovery and identification of missing persons, including the ongoing development of integrated software tools and ICMP’s high throughput DNA identity testing system, which ICMP seeks to transition to Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) DNA technology over the coming years.
“The ISFG Scientific Prize rightly highlights Tom Parson’s contribution to the massive advances in DNA-led human identification in recent years,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. “It recognizes the combination of scientific, legal, political and social strands that must be brought together in order to forge effective missing persons strategies, and Tom Parsons has been a pioneer in developing such strategies.”
The ISFG is the leading international scientific society dealing with forensic genetics. It promotes scientific knowledge in the field of genetic markers as applied to forensic science, through regular regional and international meetings, through its journal Forensic Science International: Genetics, and through the work of its expert DNA Commissions and regional Working Groups.
ICMP is an international organization whose mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, migration, human rights abuses, disasters, crime and other causes. As part of its programs, ICMP operates the world’s leading high-throughput DNA human identification facility, through which almost 20,000 missing persons have been identified from around the world.