second young investigator awards
Human identification and forensics

Second Young Investigator Awards

HID Human ID and Forensics, Young Investigator Award 2022 finalist Maria Martin Agudo
Meet the winners of the 2022 Young Investigator Awards

Congratulations to the winners of the Second Young Investigator Awards (YIA) for their outstanding scientific work using NGS in HID.

Nurturing the next generation of forensic scientists

In response to all the positive feedback we received from the forensic community for our 2019 Young Investigator Award, QIAGEN is kicking off the Second Young Investigator Award in February 2022.

Are you working on a research project that aims to make a lasting impact in human identification and forensics using next-generation sequencing (NGS)? If yes, apply for this award and win up to $60,000 worth of QIAGEN—Verogen products.

QIAGEN—Verogen partnership combine innovation and integration to allow the limitless capabilities of NGS-based methods to take your research to the next level. Let us be a part of your forensic journey. Learn about the submission guidelines and apply for this award.

The Second QIAGEN Young Investigator Award is back in February 2022 to help the next generation of forensic scientists fulfill their forensic journey in human identity and forensics. The Young Investigator Awards provide a scholarship opportunity to current graduate students (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) and those who received their degrees in the last five years. The award recognizes and promotes outstanding forensic scientists conducting novel forensic research using next-generation sequencing (NGS) to achieve their career goals. We are generously donating a combined instrument and reagents prize package worth up to US$ 60,000. As part of the QIAGEN—Verogen collaboration earlier this year, our partner Verogen also generously supports the Young Investigator Award. Our awardees will get to choose one prize package as per their needs from the following:

  • Get a QIAGEN instrument for use in your NGS workflow (QIAquant, QIAxcel or QIAexpert) plus reagents, with a combined value of up to US$ 60,000:
    • Option 1: Verogen library prep kits and sequencing reagents up to US$ 30,000 and access to a MiSeq FGx sequencer with analysis software plus training
    • Option 2: QIAseq sequencing reagents including the option to customize your own library prep panel through our GeneGlobe platform up to US$ 30,000 Or
  • Reagents only prize: You get to choose sequencing reagents from QIAGEN or QIAGEN—Verogen products, including the option to customize your own QIAseq library prep panel through our GeneGlobe platform, up to US$ 40,000

We are accepting applications from February 15 through June 10, 2022. The winner and two runners-up will be announced at the International Society of Forensic Genetics (ISFG) 2022 Congress, Washington DC on September 1, and will receive flights to Washington DC and accommodation for up to two nights.

Learn more about this fantastic opportunity to have your work supported and recognized on an international scale by the wider Investigator Community.

Margreet van den Berge from the Netherlands Forensic Institute, The Hague won the 2019 Young Investigator Award for her work on mRNA profiling for forensic identification of body fluids and organ types, including of aged and degraded specimens. 
The runners-up were Zachary Goecker from the University of California, Davis and Sofia Antao Sousa from the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology at the University of Porto, Porto. Read more about their projects and how they were recognized during the 2019 ISFG Congress in Prague.
Margreet van den Berge, winner of the 2019 Young Investigator Award
Dr. Margreet van den Berge research scientist
To have my research recognized on this scale is extremely validating, and I am both proud and humbled to be recognized as QIAGEN’s Young Investigator Award winner.
Dr. Margreet van den Berge of the Netherlands Forensic Institute, The Hague
  • Sheree Hughes
    Dr. Sheree Hughes, Ph.D., currently holds a dual-title as an Associate Professor and Co-Chair of the Department of Forensic Science at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) and the Director of the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science (STAFS) human decomposition facility. Dr. Hughes also served as a commissioner on the Texas Forensic Science Commission from 2014-2018. Sheree holds a Ph.D. in Health Sciences (Forensic Genetics) from Bond University, Australia. Dr. Hughes merges her research interests of DNA typing, human anatomy, and forensic anthropology by investigating degraded and challenging biological samples for human identification (HID) and forensic intelligence purposes. Dr. Hughes leads a research group of graduate students. Her research focuses on improving DNA collection, room preservation, sample preparation, and DNA typing methods for skeletal and highly decomposed tissues for missing persons and DVI applications.
  • Keith Elliott
    Keith Elliott is the Director responsible for Global Product and marketing of Forensics and HID at QIAGEN . He received his B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from Lancaster University in 1996 and M.Sc. in Biomedical and Forensic Egyptology from the University of Manchester in 1998. Keith has worked in the field of forensic science for over 20 years, starting in research and development at the UK Forensic Science Service in 1998. During his time at the FSS, Keith led the development of several key innovations including laser microdissection for sexual assault sample analysis, and the world’s first fully integrated point-of-need STR analysis system. After leaving the FSS, Keith held commercial roles at Key Forensic Services and IntegenX before joining QIAGEN in 2013.
    Keith Elliot during a conference
  • Bruce R. McCord
    Bruce R. McCord is a Professor of Analytical and Forensic Chemistry at the Florida International University (FIU). He received his BS in Chemistry with honors from the College of William and Mary in 1981. Dr.McCord completed his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1986. Before working at FIU, he was an Assistant Professor at Ohio University (1998-2004) and a Research Chemist at the FBI Laboratory. Dr. McCord’s current research interests focus on developing procedures for Forensic DNA analysis, including rapid STR typing, epigenetics and microbiome-based assays. In addition, he has developed other applications in forensic analysis involving capillary electrophoresis, bioanalytical sensing, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Dr. McCord has published over 130 peer-reviewed papers, 10 patents, and 15 book chapters. He serves as Deputy Editor for the journal Electrophoresis, Editor for Forensic Sciences (MDPI) and is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Forensic Chemistry.
  • Walther Parson
    Walther Parson holds an associate professorship at the Institute of Legal Medicine, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria and an adjunct professorship at Penn State, PA, USA. Under his scientific supervision, the Austrian National DNA Database Laboratory was set up in 1997 in Innsbruck, where he oversees the High Through-put DNA Database Laboratory and the Forensic Genomics research group. His multi-disciplinary research group is interested in forensics, medical and population genetics, as well as anthropology, archaeology, mathematics and history. Walther Parson and his group developed (1999-2006) the EDNAP Mitochondrial DNA Population Database (EMPOP), the world’s largest forensic mitochondrial DNA database for forensic quality control and data interpretation purposes. He and his group developed STRs for the Identity ENFSI Reference Database (STRidER), successor of STRbase, to quality control and disseminate STR allele frequencies and sequenced alleles. He has authored more than 350 peer-reviewed original articles.
    Young Investigator Judge Walther Parson
  • Margreet van den Berge
    Dr. Margreet van den Berge (1990) is a postdoctoral fellow in the Research group of the division of Biological Traces at the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI). Her main research interest is mRNA profiling for body fluid and organ tissue identification. In 2018, she  defended her Ph.D. titled "Advancing forensic RNA profiling". Currently, she is expanding the functionalities of the mRNA assays by developing, amongst others, a probabilistic interpretation model and establishing an association of donor and cell type by SNPs in the RNA amplicons.
  • Kathryn Stephens
    Kathryn Stephens is Vice President of Research and Development at Verogen, overseeing the development of new reagents, bioinformatics and software products for the forensic genomics community. Kathryn has over 20 years of industry experience developing products in start-ups and publicly traded companies focusing on genomic analysis. She received her Bc.S. degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Davis and her Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University. She has directed multiple teams for the development of products for diverse platforms and applications. Kathryn led the development of the first NGS multiplex kit for forensic genomics – the ForenSeq DNA Signature Prep Kit launched with the MiSeq FGx System and was awarded the Top 10 Innovations, 2015 from The Scientist magazine. She has authored several patents on gene expression, exclusion amplification for NGS flow cells, and various Verogen technologies.
    Kathryn Stephens
  • Bruce Budowle
    Dr. Bruce Budowle received a Ph.D. in Genetics in 1979 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. From 1979-1982, Dr. Budowle was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Working under a National Cancer Institute fellowship, he carried out research predominately on genetic risk factors for diseases such as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, melanoma, and acute lymphocytic leukemia. From 1983-2009, Dr. Budowle worked at the FBI's Laboratory Division to carry out research, development, and validation of methods for forensic biological analyses. Currently, Dr. Budowle is the Director of the Center for Human Identification and Professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, Texas. His current efforts focus on human forensic identification, microbial forensics, and emerging infectious disease, with a substantial emphasis on genomics and next-generation sequencing. He is a Commissioner on the Texas Forensic Science Commission and a Texas Governor's Sexual Assault Survivor's Task Force.
    Bruce Budowle
  • Young investigator judge Sheree Hughes
    Sheree Hughes
  • Keith Elliot during a conference
    Keith Elliott
  • Young investigator judge Bruce R. McCord
    Bruce R. McCord
  • Young Investigator Judge Walther Parson
    Walther Parson
  • Dr. Margreet van den Berge
    Margreet van den Berge
  • Kathryn Stephens
    Kathryn Stephens
  • Bruce Budowle
    Bruce Budowle
Void where prohibited by law. No purchase is necessary. Purchase will not improve your chances of winning.
All applicants must be currently enrolled graduate students (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) or those who received their M.Sc. or Ph.D. in the last 5 years, and must be primarily responsible for the research described. Employees and immediate family members of QIAGEN cannot participate in the contest. This is an international contest. Submissions to the Awards are admitted from any researcher regardless of age, gender, country of origin, background or religion. The research described in the submission must fall within the HID & forensics using NGS and multiplexing technologies. Incomplete submissions or those that do not meet the requirements will be rejected. This program is void where prohibited by law. Individuals or entities classified as healthcare professionals or healthcare organizations under any applicable laws or industry codes of ethics may not participate in this program. Each applicant or entrant is responsible for confirming that their participation is permitted by their respective University or organization rules.
To enter the contest, complete the application found below. Only one entry per representative will be considered. Incomplete submissions will not be accepted. We will accept submissions received exclusively through the online form and no later than June 10, 2022. The winners will be selected according to the judging process outlined below and notified by telephone call or email from QIAGEN.
Our distinguished panel of experts in the field of HID and forensics will review and select the winners. Members of the judging committee are unbiased and have no conflicts of interest with any participants. A list of judges can be found here. Entries will be graded based on: Scientific merit of the proposed project (30 pts), originality/innovation (20 pts), the likelihood of successfully conducting the proposed research (15 pts), the application of NGS technology (15 pts), and potential for impact within the forensic community (20 pts).
We are generously donating a combined instrument and reagents prize package worth up to US$ 60,000. The awardee can select one prize package from the following:
  • Get a QIAGEN instrument for use in your NGS workflow (QIAquant, QIAxcel or QIAexpert) plus reagents, with a combined value of up to US$ 60,000:
    • Option 1: Verogen library prep kits and sequencing reagents up to US$ 30,000 and access to a MiSeq FGx sequencer with analysis software plus training
    • Option 2: QIAseq sequencing reagents including the option to customize your own library prep panel through our GeneGlobe platform up to US$ 30,000 Or
  • Reagents only prize: You get to choose sequencing reagents from QIAGEN or QIAGEN—Verogen products, including the option to customize your own QIAseq library prep panel through our GeneGlobe platform, up to US$ 40,000

The prize award is based on our product list prices with no additional or existing discount.

Applications will be accepted from February 15 through June 10, 2022. The winner and two runners-up will be announced at >the International Society of Forensic Genetics (ISFG) 2022 Congress, Washington DC, September 01, and will receive flights to Washington DC and accommodation for up to two nights

All taxes, including, without limitation, federal, state, and local taxes on or in connection with the prize, are the sole responsibility of the winning entry. The sponsor reserves the right to substitute any prize of equal or greater value in its sole discretion. No cash prize alternative will be awarded and the prize is not transferable. The sponsor reserves the right to cancel, suspend and modify the contest at its sole discretion. By participating in the award, entrants agree to release and hold harmless the sponsor from and against any claim or cause of action arising out of participation in the contest, including any errors in the administration of the promotion, printing errors, and technical errors, and the winner and his or her entry agree to release and hold harmless the sponsor as well from receipt or use of any prize awarded and further agrees to the disclosure of the name of the winning entry. QIAGEN is only permitted to facilitate, pay or reimburse for reasonable and actual travel and accommodation, as outlined by the MedTech Code of Ethics. Under the code, QIAGEN can only make these payments to the employer of the awardee. The Official Rules are governed by, and must be construed in accordance with, the laws of Germany. Entrants agree that all disputes arising from or in connection with this contest and the prize awarded must be heard in a state or federal court of Germany. This contest is void where prohibited by law. Sponsor: The contest is sponsored by QIAGEN GmbH, Qiagen Str. 1, 40724 Hilden, Germany.

Any personal data will be processed by QIAGEN and Verogen in accordance with the applicable data protection laws, as detailed in QIAGEN Privacy Policy. Personal data of the participats shall be processed:
  1. to award and settle the prize and announce the names of the winners pursuant to Art.6.1.b. of the GDPR
  2. to participate in the contest – pursuant to Art. 6.1.f of the GDPR

For all winner(s), QIAGEN publishes the following information: a) name, b) name of institution, c) their activities in relation to the award of the prize, d) prize amount. Participants hereby irrevocably grant to QIAGEN and Verogen:

  1. the unrestricted right and permission to copyright, make, reproduce, publish, republish, broadcast and otherwise use photos and recordings of the participant or in which the participant may be included intact or in part, composite in character or form, in conjunction with the participant's own, or reproduction hereof, made through any and all media now or hereafter known for illustration, art, promotion, advertising, trade, corporate communications, social media or any other purpose whatsoever;
  2. the right and permission to the use of any written information (including without limitation, quotations, product or information) material in connection with the above;

provided that such photos and recording are use for the purpose of the QIAGEN Young Investigator Award and promotional activities.

Participant waives any right to examine or approve the completed product or products or the copy or printed matter that may be used in conjunction with the or the use to which it may be applied.

Have questions about the application process?

Previous Judges

  • Thomas J. Parsons
    Thomas J. Parsons is the Director of Science and Technology at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). He supervises a large technical staff in a multidisciplinary approach to location and identification of the missing through imagery, forensic archaeology, anthropology, pathology, bioinformatics and high throughput DNA analysis. Current development at the ICMP laboratory focuses on optimizing massively parallel sequencing approaches for missing persons DNA identification. Prior to joining the ICMP, Dr. Parsons worked at the US Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL). He received his undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Washington in 1989. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institute, he focused on ancient DNA, molecular evolution and phylogenetics, as well as mtDNA biogeography and avian speciation. He received the 2015 biennial Scientific Prize from the International Society of Forensic Genetics.
  • Yingnan Bian
    Dr. Yingnan Bian is Deputy Director and Associate Professor at Department of Forensic Biology, Academy of Forensic Science, Ministry of Justice in Shanghai, China. Dr. Bian leads both the research group at the Academy, as well as the forensic biology casework team, overseeing the completion of over 2,000 cases each year. His research interests include Massively Parallel Sequencing and Pyrosequencing, and their applications to human identity. Prior to joining the Academy, Dr. Bian worked in both the commercial sector, at Life Technologies, and in academia at Baylor College, USA, and Fudan University, China, where he gained his Ph.D. in 2009.
  • Jiangwei Yan
    Dr. Jiangwei Yan is a Professor at the School of Forensic Medicine, Shanxi Medical University. He is also the Director of Forensic Medicine and serves as a judicial expert. Before working at SMU, he worked at the Beijing Institute of Genomics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2008-2018) and the Forensic Science Service, Beijing Public Security Bureau (1997-2007). Dr. Yan’s primary research interests include forensic genomics and bioinformatics. He has published over 70 peer reviewed scientific papers, 12 patents and 4 book chapters. He has won numerous academic awards, such as the Outstanding Young Scientists Award of Beijing, Ten Thousand Talents Program of Beijing and Prize for Science and Technology Achievement of the Ministry of Public Security.
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    Thomas J. Parsons
  • Video 5 thumbnail
    Yingnan Bian
  • Video 6 thumbnail
    Jiangwei Yan
Based on a MiSeq or MiSeq FGx instrument