When it comes to criminal forensics, one of the biggest issues investigators face is the popularity of “CSI”-style detective shows – and one of the best ways to combat the misinformation found in those shows is with solid analysis and research. That’s one reason that Mike Illes, who completed an M.Sc. in Environmental and Life Sciences at Trent in 2011, was thrilled to learn his thesis was one of the top 25 most-accessed theses on ProQuest in December 2014.
The paper, titled “Investigation of a model for stain selection and a robust estimation for area of origin in bloodstain pattern analysis,” is notable for its use of statistical modelling to analyze blood spatter that occurs with blunt force trauma.
“It’s about a specific pattern within bloodstain pattern analysis,” explains Mr. Illes, who now teaches in Trent’s Forensic Science program. “It’s an impact pattern – at crime scenes, typically beating or shooting scenes, where some force is applied to the blood source, blood flies through the air and hits a target surface. I was examining that impact pattern using statistical modelling. I used the laws of physics, fluid dynamics, and math to determine where the blood source was when it was originally hit.”
This research heralds a shift regarding forensic evidence gathering and court testimony. “Practitioners can use this research in the court of law to show that there’s research to support the opinions they’re providing in court,” he says. “This paper was the first investigation that used statistical modelling in order to provide a quantitative analysis. It wasn’t just theoretical - I also developed a method for practitioners to [test this pattern] in the field.”
This practical application for his research has much to do with the paper’s popularity. As Mr. Illes notes, “The pressures from the court and judicial system to provide evidence-based opinions instead of experience-based opinions is rising.”
It also helps that Mr. Illes is an expert in forensic research who has testified in over 100 major forensic cases and completed forensic casework in Canada, the United States, and the Netherlands. Before retiring in January 2014, he worked with the Ontario Provincial Police for 28 years, attained the rank of Sergeant, and was in its forensics department for 25 years, even while completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Trent on a part-time basis.
In addition to now being an instructor in Trent’s Forensic Science program, he runs a forensic training and research company in Peterborough called MCI Forensics. He is also a former member of the FBI-organized Scientific Working Group on Bloodstain Pattern Analysis (SWIGSTAIN). The fact that his research has received such support from the academic community is both a credit to him and to Trent, with which he and his family have a longstanding relationship: “I’ve been involved in the Trent community for many years at many levels. It’s very satisfying.”
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Posted on Monday, January 26, 2015.