Black Female Scientist Earns Grant to Improve Rape Investigation Methods

Dr. Candice Bridge, a black, female chemistry professor at the University of Central Florida was awarded a $324,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice to research improvements to sexual assault investigation methods.

Along with a research team of 11 students, Dr. Bridge will look into methods of identifying rapists besides DNA. They’ll be using instruments only available to the FBI and a few federal and state forensic labs to investigate the lubricants exchanged during sexual assault, drugs, toxicology and gunshot residue.

“This grant will enable us to conduct research into a unique new means of identifying perpetrators of sexual assault when traditional DNA evidence doesn’t exist,” Dr. Bridge said in press release. “It’s an important line of research that has become even more important as rapists attempt to elude capture by covering their DNA tracks after an assault.”

Money from the grant will also go toward a postdoctoral researcher, a fellowship for a Ph.D. student and tuition, fees, materials and student stipends.

“An award from the NIJ in forensic science is particularly significant as it’s the primary agency for advancing forensic science through research,” said Dr. Bridge.

Dr. Bridge started aspiring to be a chemist when she was only 13-years-old. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Howard University. At 25, she went on to earn her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry with a forensic science focus from UCF, making her one of the first people in the country to earn that particular degree.

She was the first black woman to teach chemistry at both Howard University and UCF and was voted Professor of the Year her first year teaching at Howard, made Ebony magazine’s list of 30 Under 3 Leaders and developed the only Human Research Protection Program for the Department of Defense to manage prisoner research.

In addition to the grant, Dr. Bridge also earned a contract with the Orlando Public Defender’s Office to create a website to educate defense and prosecution attorneys about forensic science so both sides will better understand how forensic science can and cannot be used.

She’s also received an award from UCF for additional research on how the human body degrades lubricants before forensic exams.

Currently, the majority of sexual assaults are not even reported and it’s easy to see why. Only 11 out of 100 sexual assault cases will ever make it to trial and only 3 out of every 100 rapists will ever spend a day in jail. When victims know that, in all likelihood, their rape kit will sit untested in a lab for years and their rapists will probably go free, it’s hard to believe the process of reporting is worth it.

With other types of forensic investigative methods, however, future sexual assault cases just might yield better results for victims looking for justice.

Photo Credit: Candice Bridge

99 comments

George L
George L3 months ago

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Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

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Chun Lai T
Chun Lai T3 months ago

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Tin Ling L
Tin Ling L3 months ago

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