Multidisciplinary Mason Research Team Receives Nearly $1 Million Department of Justice Grant

Researchers from the College of Health and Human Services and College of Computing and Engineering seek to develop a new, quantitative approach to analyzing the age of bruises

Researchers from Mason’s College of Health and Human Services and Volgenau School of Engineering received a $988,559 grant from the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, for a three-year study that combined forensic contusion analysis with machine learning.

Katherine Scafide
dr. Katherine Scafide, RN

Assistant Professor of Nursing Katherine Scafidedirector of the Machine Learning and Inference Laboratory Janusz Wojtusiakand associate professor at the Department of Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering David Lattanzi continue their work on forensic bruise analysis on various skin tones with this new grant.

Law enforcement officers and legal professionals often rely on the accuracy and interpretation of injury documentation to support their decisions; however, current assessments of bruises provide little reliable data to use.

“Image analytics using deep learning, a subdomain of machine learning, has demonstrated significant accuracy and reliability benefits in healthcare; few studies have applied these techniques to the forensic analysis of injuries,” said Scafide, the principal investigator. “Our new study seeks to use deep learning to improve our understanding of how bruises appear on different skin tones over time. The results will have broad implications for forensic clinical practice, criminal justice response and future research.”

Janusz Wojtusiak
dr. Janusz Wojtusiak

The team will develop a new, quantitative approach to identify the age of a bruise using deep learning models while determining its reliability and accuracy. In addition, the team will develop a secure, searchable platform to store digital bruises and provide a comprehensive view of the healing process of different skin tones. The platform will integrate deep learning modeling and support future research and collaboration within the forensic science community.

“There is great potential for machine learning to support and improve forensic nursing techniques and reporting. Machine learning helps solve complex problems, and in forensic nursing it can help to understand bruises over time,” says Wojtusiak.

This research builds directly on a 2019 Summer Impact Grant which the investigation team received from the Mason Provost Office.

“This new Department of Justice grant is an example of how we have been able to transform a multidisciplinary and collaborative research learning experience for students into a federally funded and impactful research project that can benefit the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Scafide said.

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