Forensic Genetics Unit

Courses offered by the UGF :

Our unit teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and also provides continuing education courses. Teaching is intended mainly for students of medicine, law and forensic science, as well as for magistrates, police officers and biomedical analysis technicians. The following modules are given in this context.

  • "Use of DNA profiles in a medico-legal context" which seeks to illustrate the use of DNA profiles in a forensic context.
  • "Practical courses in forensic genetics" which seeks to provide basic knowledge concerning the interpretation of DNA profiles in a forensic context.
  • "Analyses of autosomal nuclear DNA" which presents the main factors influencing the establishment of nuclear DNA profiles and governing their interpretation.
  • "Analysis of haploid DNA markers" which presents the main factors influencing the establishment of Y-STR and mitochondrial DNA profiles and governing their interpretation.

Main areas of research at the UGF :

The UGF develops and collaborates in many multidisciplinary research projects in different fields of forensic genetics, biology and medicine. Among these projects, several areas of research are developed, each led by one or more scientists of the UGF :

  • Vincent Castella, Dr ès Sc., privat-docent, MER-1, Responsable UGF
    Vincent Castella has studied biology with a focus on population genetics. After completing his PhD at the University of Lausanne, he was hired in 2001 for supervising, then directing the forensic genetics laboratory of Lausanne. In 2004, he obtained the forensic geneticist title of the SSLM. Since 2008, Vincent Castella is in charge of the expertise and research activities of the forensic genetics unities at the CURML. His research is mostly concerned with the setting of new molecular tools having a forensic interest and the analysis of DNA mixtures. Vincent Castella gives also forensic genetics lessons at the University of Lausanne.
  • Diana Hall, PhD
    Diana Hall received her Ph.D. in Forensic Genetics from the Catholic University of Rome for her research on background Linkage Disequilibrium across human populations, carried out at the Department of Human Genetics of the University of Chicago. She continued her postdoctoral studies on disease mapping of complex traits at the Rockefeller University of New York. Since 2010, she is responsible of Research and Development at the UGF. Her latest interests are novel methodological approaches for DNA mixture resolutions applied to crime casework, prenatal paternity testing, solid organ transplant monitoring and population genetics. 
  • Patrick Basset, PhD
    After some studies in Biology and a PhD from the Lausanne University with a specialization in population genetics, Patrick Basset did a one year postdoc at the University of Arizona (Tucson, USA) (speciation genetics). Then, he worked for 5 years in the service of hospital preventive medicine at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) to study the epidemiology and evolution of several bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Since 2013, Patrick Basset takes care of certifying activities of the UGF as well as research projects. In such a context, he is particularly interested in the parameters associated with the contamination of DNA stains. 
  • Frédéric Grosjean, PhD
    Holder of a PhD in Sciences from the EPFL since 2003, Frédéric Grosjean worked for two years as responsible for the flow cytometry facility within the Ludwig Insitute for Cancer Research. He then joined the biochemistry department of the University of Lausanne to perform postdoctoral studies in immunology, working on a murine model of cancer and its characterization using DNA array and flow cytometry. Frédéric Grosjean is a flow cytometry specialist; he is interested in its applications within the field of forensic sciences, focusing on separation of different cell types for genetic analyses. 
  • Joëlle Gervaix, MSc, Head of Bioinformatics
    Joëlle Gervaix obtained in 2010 her Masters in Genetics and Experimental Biology at the University of Lausanne, where she teaches in parallel programming and principles of molecular evolution. Her project, carried out in the laboratory of Professor Henrik Kaessmann at the Center for Integrative Genomics, focuses on computer analysis of High-throughput sequencing data in the field of mammalian molecular evolution. At the interface between genetics and computer science, Joëlle Gervaix is now responsible of bioinformatics at the UGF. She ensures the proper operation of robotic platforms and development of automation. She manages the laboratory information management system and its evolutions while coordinating development projects. She also supports research by developing specific analytical programs and currently participates in the entrance of high-throughput sequencing in the laboratory.
  • Luca Fumagalli, Dr ès Sc., privat-docent, MER-1
    After completing his PhD at the University of Lausanne, Luca Fumagalli moved to the University of Queensland (Australia) for a 18-months postdoc (with a SNF fellowship), specializing in conservation genetics. Since 1999, is responsible for the Laboratory for Conservation Biology (LCB) at the University of Lausanne ( At the CURML, he developed wildlife forensic genetic analyses (illegal wildlife trade/poaching, analysis of biological samples found on crime scenes, …). Among his research projects, he is interested in population genetics and phylogeography of threathened species, molecular evolution of multigene families, development of non-invasive genetic methods, study of environmental DNA (eDNA), as well as the genomics of domestication of hemp (Cannabis sativa). These studies are partially funded by the SNF, the FOEN and the University of Lausanne. 

Thesis in progress :

  • Fabio Oldoni (2012 – ) : "Development of an innovative DIP-STR marker assay to solve unbalanced two-source DNA mixtures for forensic applications"
  • Jennifer Comte (2015 - ) :  "Estimation génétique de l’âge du donneur d’une trace biologique retrouvée sur les lieux d’une infraction"

Some recent UGF publications :