Dr. Dawson Cruz earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and zoology from North Carolina State University and received her Doctorate of Philosophy in Molecular and Cellular Pathology from UNC –Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
At Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Dawson Cruz serves as Professor of Forensic Science and Chair of the Department of Forensic Science. She was appointed Chair in January of 2019. In addition to her teaching and administrative duties, she also manages the VCU Dawson Cruz Forensic Molecular Biology Research Laboratory. Prior to her VCU appointment, Dr. Dawson Cruz worked as an Assistant Director and Technical Leader at Fairfax Identity Laboratories, where she oversaw CODIS lab operations and helped develop DNA testing strategies for high-throughput forensic casework analysis. She has additionally served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Forensic Science at George Washington University. Dawson Cruz still finds time to continue her work as a forensic DNA professional by serving as a technical consultant for several state and private DNA databanking and forensic casework laboratories.
Dr. Dawson Cruz is an active member of American Society of Crime Lab Directors, the International Association for Identification (ASCLD), is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), and is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Sciences (MAAFS). Additionally, she frequently serves as a peer-review panelist for the National Institutes of Justice forensic DNA-related federal grant programs. Dr. Dawson Cruz was named a Commissioner for the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the accrediting body for universities offering degrees in forensic science.
Dr. Dawson Cruz has authored more than 25 peer-review published articles detailing her own research efforts, as well as speaking about her research program annually at several professional meetings. Additionally, she has directly trained more than 40 graduate-level forensic professionals in her research laboratory. Dawson Cruz’s primary research efforts focus on development of new methods for low copy number DNA analysis, visualization enhancement for contact DNA, relationship of telomere length and chronological age, and qPCR and RT-PCR assay development for inflammatory gene expression and telomere copy number.
Dr. Dawson Cruz's recent work on a sexual assault evidence analysis microdevice was featured in VCU's Innovation Gateway Annual Report.