Felicity Poulsen - Scientific Officer

FelicityPoulsenProfileFelicity Poulsen spends every day looking into the future of forensic DNA analysis. As a scientist in NSW Health Pathology’s Forensic Biology/DNA laboratory, Felicity evaluates emerging technologies, such as Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS), which has the potential to map the entire genomic sequence of a person by analysing millions of DNA strands at the same time.

“MPS opens the door to a whole host of new applications which can expand the scope of DNA analysis within criminal and coronial investigations,” Felicity says. 

The Forensic Biology/DNA team is currently validating MPS for whole mitochondrial genome sequencing, which will be used for identification of unknown human remains and criminal investigations. There are also plans to use MPS for phenotyping, which analyses DNA to predict externally visible characteristics, such as hair and eye colour and, potentially, the ancestry or ethnicity of unknown human remains or the unknown suspect who left DNA at a crime scene. There is also the possibility to consider MPS for molecular autopsy applications which can help identify genetic causes of sudden, unexpected death.

“These emerging technologies provide help for difficult cases where traditional methods have not yielded an identification,” Felicity says. “Ultimately, this work will assist police investigators in the pursuit of justice and help to provide closure to families of victims.”

Felicity says she has always been inquisitive; “I wanted to know how everything worked, often to the frustration of those around me! But I was lucky enough to have family and teachers who fostered my enquiring mind and supported my science education throughout school and university. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work in a field that never ceases to provide fascination and intrigue.”

Felicity is also undertaking a PhD project to improve how biogeographic ancestry prediction is used in an operational setting. 

 “It’s extremely rewarding day-to-day to see how your hard work has helped to improve our Forensic Biology/DNA operations and to know that our team uses these technologies to assist the criminal justice system in NSW.”