CSI: DNA is dedicated to the use of DNA profiling as a method to get students interested in genetics.

The purpose of this site is to provide teachers with guidance on the use of crime scene investigation as an activity and provide DNA fingerprints for use in classrooms.

Gathering Evidence

This material was developed for a week-long high-school mini-course taught at New Mexico Tech. Before they investigate the crime scene, students in CSI: DNA learn to micropipette, isolate DNA, and analyze the rapidly evolving sections of their own DNA that are used in forensic identification. Their new skills in molecular manipulations will be tested on DNA samples from the crime scene.

The instrumentation that makes CSI:DNA possible was obtained in 1998 with funding from the National Science Foundation's Department of Undergraduate Education (Award # 9851150) by Dr. Rebecca Reiss, Associate professor of Biology at New Mexico Tech. Donations of expired reagents from police departments allowed the incorporation of forensic DNA as a unit in the undergraduate genetics course. This unit was modified for high-school students and a pilot project was run in 2002 by Scotia Kurowski, then a Master's of Science Teaching (MST) student. Catherine Dickey, a Forensic Scientist with the Bernalillo Metropolitan Forensic Science Center, provides the necessary expertise in forensics. Mary Robinson, a forensic science teacher at Rio Rancho High School, provides expertise in crime scene construction. It was first run as a part of NM Tech's week-long mini-course program in 2003, and approximately 60 students have participated.

For a more detailed explanation of the course, see "MENDEL MEETS CSI: Forensic Genotyping as a Method To Teach Genetics & DNA Science" published in the May, 2007 issue of The American Biology Teacher.


The following material is provided to help teachers design their own crime scene activities. The files are free for educational use. Copyrights belong to their respective authors. All files are in PDF format except where noted.

Teacher Tips provides guidance on crime scene design.

Genetic Profiling using Short Tandem Repeat Analysis explains how fluorescent genotyping works and includes an explanation of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Probabilities in Forensic Genetics is an activity that demonstrates how fluorescent genotyping can prove guilt or innocence. We provide an Answer Key.

Beetle Crime Scene DNA Analysis is an example of how electropherograms are used in a CSI activity.

There are nine DNA fingerprints available for downloading, each fingerprint having two electropherograms. One is a reference sample that represents results when an individual is sampled, and the other is the same genotype from a piece of evidence. The Allelic Ladder and Electropherogram Key contains a table of the profiles. A blank table is included for students. You can also see the Reagent Control Electropherogram that is used to calibrate the ABI Prism 310 Genetic Analyzer.

Starting the Investigation

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PowerPoint Slides and the following photos (in JPEG format) show the ABI Prism 310 Genetic Analyzer used at New Mexico Tech and can be used in lectures and printed materials. The "Large" photos are 3000 x 2000 pixels and can be cropped and reduced in size as needed. The "Small" photos are designed for printing at 6.5 inch width and 300 ppi. (To save an image from your browser, right-click on the image and select "Save Image (or Picture) As..." from the menu.)

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