Current Research Group Members

Mitchell M. Holland

Dr. Holland holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Hobart Collage in Geneva, New York, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Maryland, College Park, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland where he studied Human Genetics.

Dr. Holland is a Fellow in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and has served as an associate professorial lecturer and adjunct faculty member at various colleges and universities.  Dr. Holland has been on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Forensic Sciences and a member of the Advisory Board of the International Journal of Legal Medicine.  He has held positions on governmental and company advisory boards and has been recognized by the FBI and others for his work.

Prior to being asked in early 2005 to help establish the Forensic Science Program at Penn State, Dr. Holland was the Senior Vice President of Operations and Laboratory Director of The Bode Technology Group.  Bode is one of the largest private forensic DNA laboratories in the world.  At Bode, Dr. Holland led the efforts to generate DNA profiles from victim remains recovered from Ground Zero (World Trade Centers) following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

From 1991-2000, Dr. Holland held various positions at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, including Scientific Laboratory Director from 1993-2000.  At AFDIL, Dr. Holland led the efforts to identify the remains of 1st Lt Michael Blassie (the Vietnam Unknown Soldier) and Nicholas Romanov, the last Russian Tsar.  The primary mission at AFDIL is the identification of U.S. military personnel killed in the line of duty.

My passions include cooking, gardening (poppies below/right!!), sports, and my wonderful family.  To the right is a picture of my three beautiful children (Alayne, Harrison, and Gabriel) and below is the love of my life and their mom/bonus mom (Charity).

Jennifer A. McElhoe

Dr. McElhoe joined the Holland Laboratory as a Research Associate in 2012, bringing a diverse background and unique perspective to the forensic science program. Dr. McElhoe holds a B.S. in Marine Science from Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., an M.S. in Environmental Engineering Sciences from the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL., and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, PA.

During her Ph.D. work, Dr. McElhoe studied reductive dehalogenation of trichloroethene using molecular tools to characterize the microbial community. The experience she gained doing this work allowed her to transition into her current position doing molecular work using massively parallel sequencing. As a forensic Research Associate, Dr. McElhoe focuses include evaluating heteroplasmy in mitochondrial DNA, bioinformatics, and how to properly apply statistical evaluation to datasets.

Dr. McElhoe has extensive experience with the development of molecular techniques, and she was responsible for the development and optimization of the massively parallel sequencing (MPS) methods we are currently using in the laboratory. These methods have proven to produce reliable and high-quality results for the entire mtDNA genome on the MiSeq. She was the lead author on the methods development paper: Development and Assessment of an optimized next-generation DNA sequencing approach for the mtgenome using the Illumina MiSeq, Forensic Science International: Genetics, 13, pp. 20-29 (2014), and co-author on five other publications. Dr. McElhoe has conducted an extensive survey of analysis software solutions for MPS data that led to the selection of NextGENe® (SoftGenetics Inc., State College, PA) as our primary choice, and she was a contributor of the recent work to develop a forensic version of the software, GeneMarker® HTS (SoftGenetics Inc.).

Outside of work, Dr. McElhoe enjoys cooking, puzzles, crafts, photography, and spending time with friends, her two dogs, and husband, Chris. The pictures below are of Chris, and their two dogs, J.J. & Jinx, on the beach in N.C., Chris and Dr. McElhoe on top of the empire state building, and a photo taken by Dr. McElhoe of water drop refraction that is a personal favorite.

Grace Marino

Hi! My name is Grace Marino and I am from Birmingham, Alabama. I graduated from Auburn University with a B.S. in Laboratory Science. I am a graduate student in the Forensic Science Master’s Program at Penn State on the biology track. In my spare time I enjoy reading, going to concerts, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

The research project that I am working on aims to determine if there is a correlation between bone density and mitochondrial DNA yield. We are using a micro-CT scanner to determine the density of the bone samples and because of this, I am initially investigating whether or not the irradiation from the scanning process is damaging the DNA or affecting the yield in any way.

Troy Adams

Hello! My name is Troy Adams and I am from Allentown, Pennsylvania. I am a senior majoring in Forensic Biology with a minor in Anthropology. The experience I gain working with Holland Research Group will leave me with invaluable knowledge for the future, and I look forward to how much more I will learn. This group around me will drive me to be better and help achieve my full potential. I hope to eventually join AFDIL, working to identify deceased military service members. In my free time I enjoy soccer, tennis, and Penn State Football!

I am currently working with Dana and Marissa on a project to investigate variation within quantitative PCR results.

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Dana Dirnberger

Hi! My name is Dana Dirnberger and I am from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania (but my family has moved around a lot, so I’m technically from San Antonio, Texas). I am a senior majoring in Forensic Biology and pursuing Forensic Pathology. I also play piccolo in the Penn State Blue Band, and I volunteer with THON, Penn State’s student-run childhood cancer fundraiser, every year. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, traveling, and card games.

Last year, I assisted with a project assessing the Promega PowerSeq Whole Mitochondrial Genome System. This year, I am researching the effect of varying efficiency values on mtqPCR.

Therese Mandracchia

Howdy! My name is Therese Mandracchia, and I am from Warwick, New York. I graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Law and Society, and I am currently a graduate student in the Forensic Science Master’s program on the biology track. I was a DIII swimmer and springboard diver in my undergrad, and in my free time I enjoy swimming and going to the gym, on top of playing with dogs and watching Netflix!

The research project that I am working on is recovering DNA from fired ammunition components, looking at how the time that DNA remains on certain metals affects the DNA yield as well as the difference of yields between mtDNA and nDNA!

Lauren Canale

Hi! My name is Lauren Canale, and I am from Martinez, California. I graduated from the University of California, Davis with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Anthropology. I am currently a graduate student in the Forensic Science Master’s program on the biology track. I play the flute and in my free time, I enjoy reading, listening to podcasts and watching movies!