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Forensic Science Research

We conduct scientific research in several forensic disciplines, with our major focus areas listed below. We also provide physical reference standards and data that help forensic laboratories validate their analytical methods and ensure accurate test results.


All firearms leave unique microscopic marks on the surfaces of the bullets and cartridge cases they fire. Law enforcement agencies have been using these marks to link bullets and cartridge cases to suspect firearms for almost a century... [read more]

Digital and Multimedia Evidence

Digital evidence includes information on computers, audio files, video recordings, and digital images. This evidence is essential in computer and Internet crimes, but is also valuable for... [read more]

DNA and Biological Evidence

Forensic biologists can detect minute quantities of blood or semen left on clothing, weapons, and other objects and can link that evidence to individuals through DNA analysis. NIST has played an important role... [read more]

Drugs and Toxicology

NIST scientists develop Standard Reference Materials that forensic science laboratories use to validate the accuracy of their identification and quantification of controlled substances. NIST researchers are also... [read more]

Pattern and Impression Evidence

What do fingerprints, shoeprints, tire tread impressions, and scratch marks left by tools all have in common? They are all types of... [read more]

Trace Evidence and Chemistry

Small amounts of chemicals, such as gunshot residue or explosives, can remain on a suspect’s hands or clothing. Bits of fiber, strands of hair... [read more]



Created July 18, 2016, Updated November 15, 2019