Questions for ‘Cool Jobs: New tools to solve crimes’


Deon Anex analyzes human hairs in his laboratory. He’s looking for unique features in the structure of the proteins making up the hair. These features could help identify who the hair came from.

Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

To accompany feature “Cool Jobs: New tools to solve crimes” 


Before Reading: 

1. Imagine detectives investigating a crime scene today. What kinds of evidence might they gather?

2. When detectives find a dead body, how do you think they figure out when that individual had died?


During Reading:

1.   What is a microbiome?

2.   What was Jack Gilbert’s team looking for when it swabbed the fake crime scene?

3.   What is one big problem with analyzing microbial DNA in order to identify criminals?

4.   What are the building blocks of proteins called?

5.   What does Deon Anex mean when he says proteins are “indirect DNA evidence”?

6.   Eventually, how much hair does Anex hope he’ll need for an analysis?

7.   Where does Jessica Metcalf get the bodies she studies?

8.   How does temperature affect the timeline of microbes that live on a corpse, according to Metcalf’s research?

9.  When Metcalf studied the microbes that live on mouse corpses, how did they compare to the microbes on human corpses?

10.  What did Metcalf learn about how different soil types affect the microbes that grow on a corpse?

After Reading: 

1.  Out of the three techniques described in the article, which sounds like it’s the closest to being used in real investigations? Why?

2.   If you were a burglar, would it be possible to keep from leaving any of your microbes behind at the crime scene? How would you try to prevent it?