Skip to content

College of Humanities & Sciences

Department of Forensic Science

Sarah J Seashols-Williams, Ph.D.

seashols [View Image]

Graduate Program Director Associate Professor
(804) 828-8420

Sarah Williams received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the College of William & Mary. She graduated from VCU in 2003 with a Master’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice, specializing in Forensic Science, and in 2013 with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from VCU. 

Professional experience
Dr. Williams is a Research Assistant Professor in Forensic Science at VCU, teaching several of the forensic biology track upper-level and graduate courses. She started her career in forensic molecular biology when she was appointed to a forensic biology fellowship with the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine in 2002. Upon the successful completion of the fellowship, she worked as a forensic scientist for the Virginia Department of Forensic Science until 2007. As an examiner in Forensic Biology, she performed serological and STR DNA analyses on hundreds of cases.

Dr. Williams' research interests include body fluid identification using both standard and novel molecular methods, including Raman Spectroscopy, microRNA and mRNA analysis, nanopore sensing of DNA fragments, as well as optimization of DNA extraction and quantitation methods. 

Dr. Williams has presented original research at conferences and in poster sessions, and has taught forensic biology related introduction and refresher courses for law enforcement personnel. She has testified as an expert witness in forensic biology in several circuit courts in the state of Virginia. She has publications in forensic science, molecular biology and biochemistry, has been a member of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists since 2004, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.


  1. TR Layne**, RA Green**, CA Lewis***, F Nogales**, TC Dawson Cruz, ZE Zehner, SJ Seashols-Williams. microRNA Detection in Blood, Urine, Semen, and Saliva Stains after Compromising Treatments.  J Forensic Sci. 2019 Jun 11. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.14113. 
  2. CA Lewis***, TR Layne**, SJ Seashols-Williams. Detection of microRNAs in DNA Extractions for Forensic Biological Source Identification. J Forensic Sci. 2019 May 20. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.14070.
  3. C Mayes***, R Houston, S Seashols-Williams, B LaRue, S Hughes-Stamm. The stability and persistence of blood and semen mRNA and miRNA targets for body fluid identification in environmentally challenged and laundered samples. Leg Med (Tokyo). 2019 Mar 28;38:45-50. doi: 10.1016/j.legalmed.2019.03.007.
  4. Auka N**, Valle M**, Cox BD**, Wilkerson PD**, Dawson Cruz T, Reiner JE, Seashols-Williams SJ. Optical tweezers as an effective tool for spermatozoa isolation from mixed forensic samples. PLoS One. 2019 Feb 7;14(2):e0211810. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211810. eCollection 2019.
  5. S Seashols-Williams, R Green**, D Wohlfahrt***, A Brand**, A Lumjuco Tan-Torres***, F Nogales**, J P Brooks, B Singh. An accurate bacterial DNA quantification assay for HTS library preparation of human biological samples.    2018 May 17. doi: 10.1002/elps.201800127.
  6. C Mayes***, S Seashols-Williams, S Hughes-Stamm. A capillary electrophoresis method for identifying forensically relevant body fluids using miRNAs.  Legal Medicine. 2017 Oct 31; 30:1-4.
  7. LR Camarena**, BK Glasscock*, N Ackley*, M Sciarretta, SJ Seashols. An Optimized Centrifugal Method for Separation of Semen from Superabsorbent Polymers for Forensic Analysis. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2017 Mar;62(2):411-416.
  8. SJ Seashols-Williams, C Lewis**, C Calloway**, N Peace**, A Harrison**, C Hayes-Nash**, S Fleming**, Q Wu*, and ZE Zehner. High-throughput miRNA sequencing and identification of biomarkers for forensically relevant biological fluids. Electrophoresis. 2016 Oct;37(21):2780-2788.
  9. SJ Seashols-Williams, W Budd, K Sharma**, E. Dragescou, and ZE Zehner.  miR-9 acts as an OncomiR in prostate cancer through multiple pathways that drive tumour progression and metastasis.PLoS One. 2016 Jul 22;11(7):e0159601.
  10. C Angevine***, SJ Seashols-Williams, J Reiner.  Infrared laser heating applied to nanopore sensing for DNA duplex analysis.  Analytical Chemistry.  2016 Mar 1;88(5):2645-51.
  11. WT Budd, SJ Seashols-Williams, GC Clark**, D Weaver**, V Calvert, E Petricoin, EA Dragoescu, K O’Hanlon, ZE Zehner.  Dual Action of miR-125b As a Tumor Suppressor and OncomiR-22 Promotes Prostate Cancer Tumorigenesis.  PLoS One. 2015 Nov 6;10(11):e0142373. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142373.
  12. L Dean**, YJ Kwon**, MK Philpott***, C Stanciu**, SJ Seashols, T Dawson Cruz, J Sturgill, CJ Ehrhardt.  Separation of Whole Blood Mixtures for Single Source STR Profiling Using Fluorescently-labeled Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) Probes and Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS).  Forensic Sci Int Genet 2015 Jul;17:8-16.
  13. Budd, WT, Seashols, SJ, Weaver, D**, Josephy, C., Zehner, Z.  A Networks Method for Ranking microRNA Dysregulation in Cancer. BMC Syst Biol. 2013;7 Suppl 5:S3 doi: 10.1186/1752-0509-7-S5-S3.
  14. Boyd, S*, Bertino, MF, Ye, D, White, LS, Seashols, SJ.  Highly sensitive detection of blood by Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS).  Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2013 May;58(3):753-6.
  15. SJ Seashols, HD Cross*, D Shrader*, A Rief*.  A comparison of chemical enhancements for the detection of latent blood.  Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2013 Jan;58(1):130-3.
  16. Boyd, S*, Bertino, MF, Seashols, SJ.  Raman spectroscopy of blood samples for forensic applications. Forensic Sci Int. 2011 May 20;208(1-3):124-8.
  17. Geronimus AT, Hicken MT, Pearson JA, Seashols SJ, Brown KL**, Cruz TD.  Do US Black Women Experience Stress-Related Accelerated Biological Aging?  A Novel Theory and First Population-Based Test of Black-White Differences in Telomere Length. Hum Nat (2010) 21:19–38
  18. Seashols, S., Olivares, A., Gil, G., and Barbour, S.E.  Regulation of Group VIA Phospholipase A2 Expression by Sterol Availability” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 2004 Aug 30; 1684 (1-3):29-37.
View graphic version