Matching DNA and Predictive Modeling of the Human Face

[September 9]

Prof. Mark D. Shriver

Professor of Anthropology and Genetics

Penn State University 

Abstract: The past few years have seen an increase in interest in the genetics of facial features and in developing methods for applying these findings in a forensic context. We will present results from our most recent facial models that include over 3,000 participants from many different human populations. These results will be used to help illustrate approaches to discovering both the genetic and non-genetic effects on facial variation, modeling the important variables, and validating the results.

Biography: After getting an undergraduate B.S. degree in Biology from the State University of New York, Stony Brook in 1987 and working as a laboratory technician at the New York University Medical Center, Mark D. Shriver received the Ph.D. degree (in Genetics/Biomedical Research in 1993) from the University of Texas/Houston Health Science Center in the Center for Demographic and Population Genetics. Dr. Shriver then worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Human Genetics, and in 1997, took a position as Assistant Professor of Human Genetics the Allegheny University of the Health Sciences. In 1999 he moved his laboratory to Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania where he was promoted to Professor of Anthropology and Genetics in 2012. Dr. Shriver heads projects emphasizing the practical applications of population genomic research. These projects are primarily focused on admixture mapping, signatures of natural selection, and the elucidation of the evolutionary-genetic architecture underlying phenotypic variability in common trait variation. A major goal of his work is to apply these methods and understanding of genomic variation to studies of common diseases (e.g., obesity, type 2 diabetes, adaptation to altitude, hypertension, and prostate cancer) and to normal variation, with a particular focus on superficial traits like skin pigmentation and facial features. Dr. Shriver has been funded by the NIH, NSF, NIJ, DTRA, DOD, and AHA and has published over 100 research articles, which have been cited over 12,000 times.

The Value of Error Rates and Proficiency Tests in the Forensic Sciences

[September 10]

Prof. Jonathan J. Koehler

Beatrice Kuhn Professor of Law

Northwestern University

Abstract: The American criminal justice system relies heavily on the judgments of the ordinary, untrained citizens who serve on juries.  Those jurors often hear expert testimony about complex scientific and technical matters.  Studies show that expert testimony pertaining to some types of forensic science evidence, such as DNA and fingerprints, exert a powerful effect on legal decision makers.  For DNA evidence, the persuasive power of the expert testimony appears to reside largely in the extremely small “random match probabilities” (RMPs) that accompany DNA match reports.  For fingerprint evidence, the power of the expert testimony stems from the examiner’s source conclusions - which are commonly and confidently provided with “100% certainty.”  But for these and other theoretically powerful technologies – including such biometric techniques as voice recognition, facial imagery, retinal scans, etc. - RMPs and subjective confidence levels will not provide jurors what they need to know about the power of the scientific evidence they hear.  Instead, our focus in trials that include such theoretically powerful evidence should be on providing jurors with empirically based first-pass estimates of the relevant error rates, such as the false positive error rate. Proficiency tests can and should be designed for this express purpose.  Those proficiency tests will be challenging to conduct, and may be resisted by some.  But I will argue that the error rates identified by these tests will likely provide jurors with more insight into the probative value of, say, a DNA match, than the RMPs that have been provided for decades. 

Biography: Jonathan “Jay” Koehler has a PhD in Behavioral Sciences from the University of Chicago. His areas of interest include behavioral decision theory, quantitative reasoning in the courtroom, forensic science, and behavioral finance. Prior to joining Northwestern in 2010, he was a professor at Arizona State University (business and law schools), and a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at University of Texas at Austin (business). He was also a visiting scholar at Harvard (psychology) and Stanford (law).

Accuracy of Forensic Examiners Performing Perceptual Face-Matching

[September 11]


Dr. Jonathon Phillips

Electronic Engineer

National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), USA

Abstract: Facial forensic examiners are extensively trained to answer the question: Are the two faces in these images the same person? The appearance of the faces can vary due changes in viewing conditions and illuminations. These comparisons can affect the course and outcome of criminal investigations and convictions. The existing scientific knowledge on the accuracy of face comparison is based, almost exclusively, on people without formal training. We administered a perceptual face-matching task for three challenging face tests to a group of forensic examiners. Examiners outperformed untrained participants and computer algorithms, thereby providing the first evidence that these examiners are experts at this task. Fusing responses of 14 examiners produced near-perfect human performance. Our results suggest that examiners are using a different strategy to identify faces in their casework than people use in the real world.  Accuracy was measured for 2 and 30 second exposure to face-pairs. Examiners’ superiority was greatest at longer exposure durations, suggestive of more entailed and effective comparison in forensic examiners.

This talk is based on:

Perceptual expertise in forensic facial image comparison, White, D., Phillips, P. J., Hahn, C. A., Hill, M. Q. & O‘Toole, A. J. (2015). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences.

Biography: Dr. Jonathon Phillips is a leading technologist in the fields of computer vision, biometrics, and face recognition.  He is at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where he runs challenge problems and evaluations to advance biometric technology. His previous efforts include the Iris Challenge Evaluations (ICE),  the Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT),  the Face Recognition Grand Challenge and FERET.  From 2000-2004,  Dr. Phillips was assigned to DARPA. For his work on the FRVT 2002 he was awarded the Dept. of Commerce Gold Medal. His work has been reported in the New York Times , the BBC, and the Economist.  He has appeared on NPR’s Science Friday show.  In an Essential Science Indicators analysis of face recognition publication over the past decade, Jonathon's work ranks at #2 by total citations and #1 by cites per paper.  He won the inaugural Mark Everingham Prize.  He is a fellow of the IEEE and IAPR.


Keynote Talks

7th IEEE International Conference on
Biometrics: Theory, Applications and Systems 
(BTAS 2015)
September 8 - 11, 2015