Thomas J. Parsons

In early 2006, Thomas J. Parsons joined the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina as Director of Forensic Sciences. At the ICMP he supervises ~100 forensic science staff in a multidisciplinary approach to identification of missing individuals involving forensic archaeology, anthropology, pathology, and high throughput DNA analysis. The ICMP’s primary focus has been on mass graves from the former Yugoslavia, but has also worked in victim identification from the 2004 Asian tsunami, hurricane Katrina, aircraft incidents, the Philippine Typhoon Frank, and has assisted the governments of South Africa, Chile and Colombia in their search for missing persons from human rights violations. ICMP now provides assistance to governments globally and maintains offices in Baghdad and Erbil, Iraq and Tripoli, Libya. The ICMP has made DNA identification matches to over 18,000 individuals.

Dr. Parsons has coordinated provision of extensive DNA, forensic anthropology and archaeology evidence to the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugosolavia (ICTY) and Bosnian State Court in war crimes trials, and testified on multiple occasions for the ICTY in The Hague. Dr. Parsons has served on a Presidential Panel and as an external advisor to the Government of Chile in support of their forensic investigations of missing from human rights violations. Dr. Parsons represents the ICMP as a permanent Board Member of the US Scientific Working Group on Disaster Victim Identification, and the INTERPOL Steering Group on Disaster Victim Identification.

Prior to joining the ICMP, Dr. Parsons worked at the US Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) since August of 1994, where he held the position of AFDIL Chief Scientist since 2000. His principle role was directing the AFDIL Research Section in projects focusing on projects such as mtDNA genome databasing, population genetics and statistical interpretation, ancient DNA extraction methods and LCN STR analysis from bone. At AFDIL he was part of the team that finalized the identification of Tsar Nicholas II, and for two years after the 9/11 attacks served on a National Institute of Justice advisory panel for the World Trade Center DNA identification efforts. His undergraduate degree was in Physics from the University of Chicago, and he received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Washington in 1989. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, he focused on molecular evolution and phylogenetics, as well as mtDNA biogeography and avian speciation.