A new collaboration between the UNO College of Information Science and Technology and the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) should lead to faster identification of skeletal remains of US military personnel.
According to the DPAA, 73,000 Americans remain unaccounted for from WWII alone.
Dr. Sachin Pawaskar, who leads the UNO team, says this partnership formalizes and extends work they have been doing with the DPAA since 2016. Their focus has been the remains of service members lost when the USS Oklahoma was sunk at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Pawaskar explains that their advanced computer bioinformatics algorithms will help narrow the search field for the DPAA’s forensic anthropologists.
“Previously, the task would take like 40 hours, maybe a week, to do all pair matches. Now it’s a matter of reducing that time into maybe a few hours. That way, you are allowing the anthropologists to focus only on the ones that are computationally identified as near matches, and then they can hone in on the right one.”
Although the ultimate goal of this project is to bring faster closure to the families of fallen heroes, Pawaskar believes the collaboration will lead to techniques valuable to other agencies. He cites the United Nations, the FBI or even local law enforcement – who may need to identify co-mingled remains.
More information is available at UNOmaha.edu, once there, search for the College of Information Science and Technology.