UQ PhD candidate Matthew Thompson has received a prestigious Fulbright Queensland Scholarship to further his research into fingerprint matching accuracy in the USA.
In collaboration with experts from the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI, Mr Thompson will determine the accuracy of human fingerprint experts, explore the psychology that affects how well they match prints, and maximise the reliability of evidence
in the criminal justice system.
"Everyday law enforcement agencies identify thousands of fingerprint matches that can be used as evidence in convicting criminals," Mr Thompson said.
"Contrary to popular belief and TV shows like CSI, computers are not relied upon to match crime-scene fingerprints. Instead, human fingerprint experts decide whether a print belongs to a suspect or not."
Mr Thompson said there have been few peer-reviewed studies directly examining the extent to which experts can correctly match fingerprints to one another, despite the
100-year history of the practice.
"Mistakes made to date have resulted in innocent people being wrongly accused," he said.
The Fulbright will allow him to carry out his research at the University of California, Los Angeles and work with leaders in the field Dr Itiel Dror and Professor Jennifer Mnookin.
Mr Thompson is confident the outcomes of his research will improve the welfare of Australians and Americans by upholding the process of law, and help to prevent wrongful convictions.
"I'll work with fingerprint experts in the US to determine the factors about the person and the print that will allow experts to make the most accurate matches," he said.
The prestigious Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind, created by US Senator J William Fulbright and the US Government in 1946. Aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational exchange, it operates between the US and 155 countries. The Fulbright Queensland Scholarship is funded by the Queensland Government and Queensland-based universities.
Mr Thompson is one of 26 talented Australians to be recognised as a Fulbright Scholar in 2011.
Media: Matthew Thompson (0401 204 295) or Kristen Bastian (07 3346 9279, firstname.lastname@example.org)