Mark Barash

Mark Barash

Associate Professor
Department of Justice Studies


forensic genetics, molecular phenotyping, forensic DNA analysis, forensic intelligence

Current Research Activities

I’m conducting a multidisciplinary research which spans molecular biology, anthropology, microbiology, human genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, statistics and machine learning. My primary efforts focus on enhancing the current capabilities of forensic DNA analysis through development of novel scientific tools to help with forensic investigations. My research efforts concentrate on the following topics:

  • Improving DNA recovery and genotyping from challenging samples, such as fired bullet casings and ammunition;
  • Developing novel forensic DNA panels using massively parallel sequencing technology in collaboration with forensic industry and academic partners;
  • Investigating the genetic and epigenetic architecture of externally visible traits, such as craniofacial morphology towards prediction of the visual appearance from a DNA sample;

My primary research goal is to develop a panel of genomic markers accompanied by machine learning pipeline to enable creation of a highly informative “molecular identikit” from a DNA sample. This “Genetic Witness” tool will combine genomic markers defining externally visible traits and allow to produce valuable investigative leads in the ‘cold cases’ and missing person cases scenarios. Such tool will provide an unprecedented advancement in criminal investigations, disaster victim identification and in combating terrorism. I'm currently working on several manuscripts and applying for grants to support my research. Unfortunately, my research efforts have been greatly impacted by the lack of adequate lab space in the last 2.5 years.


Research Connections to Current Events

The large majority of violent crimes such as homicides, sexual assaults and missing person cases are not solved within a reasonable timeframe and become cold cases. It is estimated that the U.S. Police is able to close only 66% of murders and only 32% of sexual assault cases, while the clearance rates continue to decline. This essentially translates into over 250,000 unsolved murders accumulated since 1980s (including at least 33,456 cases only in California), while this number increases by approximately 6,000 cases every year. These disturbing statistics essentially mean that justice is not served for over 40% of murderers and rapists who have never been apprehended and likely continue to commit violent crimes and for the victims and their families who do not receive closure. 

Personal Connections to Research

My research interests have been significantly inspired by my professional career. I served as forensic DNA officer (in the rank of a Chief Inspector) for more than nine years in the Israel Police, analyzing forensic DNA evidence and producing expert reports in approximately 600 hundred criminal cases.


Other Languages

Russian and Hebrew (both mother tongue fluency).