Portrait of Igor Ovtchinnikov

Igor Ovtchinnikov

  • Associate Professor, Biology

Contact Info

Office Address

Starcher Hall Room 309
10 Cornell St Stop 9019
Grand Forks, ND 58202-9019


University of North Dakota


Spring semesters, 3 credits

The objective of this course is to introduce the students to Forensic Biology, its history, methods and the application of biological evidence to a court. The ultimate goal of forensic biology is to prove the link between perpetrators and biological evidence found at crimes scenes. The concept of biological evidence, its basic types, as well as the methods of its collection and characterization are considered. The class focuses on human identification using the serological, biochemical, and genetic methods. Students intensively study 

  • key concepts of molecular and population genetics and their application in forensics
  • various forensic DNA markers including the CODIS STRs (short tandem repeats), mitochondrial DNA, Y chromosome SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms)
  • interpretations of DNA profiles in crime-scene investigations
  • new methods of forensic genomics based on the analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial genomes
  • wildlife forensics

The course includes lectures as well as student in-class presentations, discussions of criminal cases, and the statistical evaluation of biological evidence and population databases.

This is one of the courses that the American Academy of Forensic Sciences recommends for forensic scientists and DNA analysts.



Fall semesters, 3 credits

This course introduces students to science principles and the manner in which those principles are applied within various fields of the forensic sciences.  Students who complete this course will be able to

  • Provide definitions of science and forensic science
  • Define several fields of the forensic sciences in terms of the types of evidence processed and typical procedures conducted in the forensic lab
  • To become familiar with some of the techniques used by forensic scientists to collect and examine evidence recovered from crime scenes
  • To understand the importance of physical and biological evidence and the role it plays in the determination of the guilt or innocence of an individual
  • Identify and describe the impact of forensic scientists to their fields


4 credits

Spring semesters, even years

Molecular biology techniques are used in many fields, ranging from basic biological research to forensic identifications. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), one of the basic techniques that students will study in the Spring semester is routinely used for determining personal identities from crime and accident scenes, checking for pathogens, evaluating evolutionary relatedness of species, and measuring genetic variation and levels of gene expression. 

Students will gain skills needed for working in genetics, forensic, animal and plant biology laboratories that utilize molecular biology technology. They will learn how to perform basic techniques of molecular biology in three class modules: 

  • Mitochondrial DNA sequencing and tracing your maternal ancestry
  • Molecular cloning
  • RNA manipulations


3 credits

This course is designed for undergraduates majoring in biology, including general biology, pre-health science, and fisheries and wildlife biology majors. The class is also suited to students in related disciplines like biochemistry, chemistry, forensic science, nursing, and psychology. The first half of the class is focused on the foundations of Mendelian and molecular genetics. In the second half, these concepts are expanded to more advanced topics. Advances in genetics and genomics touch upon virtually every aspect of our lives from our own health (i.e., birth defects, genetic diseases, and cancer) to the food we eat and the medicines we take (i.e., agriculture and biotechnology) to the environment we live in (i.e., wildlife and conservation biology). 


3 credits

The genetic diversity of human populations as well as differences between individual genomes form the basis of medical and forensic genetics. In this interdisciplinary course students consider the basic laws and concepts of population genetics and their specific applications to our understanding of genetic diseases, phenotypic traits and individual identity. The course includes lectures as well as computer lab sessions and exercises, student in-class presentations and discussions of research articles. Students also perform computer analysis of human genetic diversity and make inferences about the evolutionary processes in human populations.


 University of Connecticut, Storrs


3 credits

Molecular genetics, bioinformatics, ancient biomolecules, forensic genetics, and cytogenetics are considered together with evidence from physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics to address human-ape evolutionary relations, modern human origins, and recent human population histories and dispersals.

Discussions include

  • Genetics and the Making of Homo sapiens
  • The Neanderthal Genome Project
  • Genetics of Pacific Islanders: Was Thor Heyerdahl right?
  • Genetics of Plant and Animal Domestication
  • … and many other fascinating things.


3 credits

Conceptually the course is divided into three parts: molecular genetics, classical genetics, and human genetics.  Two 50-minute lectures each week introduce the key concepts and facilitate understanding of the basic terms.  One discussion section per week is used to review the material covered in the lectures.

HISTORY OF GENETICS (MCB 396, Section 049)

3 credits 

This interdisciplinary course explores the origins and development of the major concepts in genetics from Mendel and Darwin to the whole-genome technologies. A role of different scientific approaches, technologies, and model organisms in our understanding and transformation of the core genetic concepts is examined. The basic attention is directed to the review of the primary and most important secondary sources.



1 credit

This three-day course includes the necessary techniques to isolate, amplify, sequence human mitochondrial DNA and introduces students to the comparative analysis of human mitochondrial genomes. The course is essential for students specializing in forensic, ancient, population, and medical genetics.





  • Ancient genomics
  • Forensic DNA profiling
  • Bison paleoecology and genomics
  • Feral horse genetics
  • Neanderthal and modern human evolution
  • Human population and medical genetics


Wild West Heritage

Ovchinnikov, I.V., Dahms, T., Herauf, B., McCann, B., Juras, R., Castaneda, C., Cothran, G. (2018). Genetic Diversity and Origin of the Feral Horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. PLoS One, 13(8), 18 pages.


Genetics of Neanderthals and Extinct Hominins

Ovchinnikov, I.V. Hominin evolution and gene flow in the Pleistocene Africa. Anthropologischer Anzeiger – Journal of Biological and Clinical Anthropology, 2013, 70(2): 221 – 227. 

Goodwin, W., Ovchinnikov, I. Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA. In: eLS (Encyclopedia of Life Sciences). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: Chichester, 2013. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com 

Ovchinnikov, I.V. Reconstructing the mitochondrial genomes of extinct hominins using a bioinformatics approach. In: Genomics I: Humans, Animals and Plants. iConcept Press, Hong Kong – Brisbane, 2012 (15 pages). https://www.iconceptpress.com/books/genomics-i-humans--animals-and-plants/ 

Ovchinnikov, I.V. & Kholina, O.I. Genome digging: Insight into the mitochondrial genome of Homo. PLoS One 2010, 5: e14278 (11 pages).

Ovchinnikov, I., Goodwin, W. Neanderthal DNA. An invited article for the McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology 2008, New York.

Goodwin, W., Ovchinnikov I. Ancient DNA and the Neanderthals. In: Bandelt, H.-J., Macaulay, V., and Richards, M. (Eds.) Human Mitochondrial DNA and the Evolution of Homo sapiens. Nucleic Acids and Molecular Biology, Vol. 18. Berlin – Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2006: 199 – 222.

Goodwin W, Ovchinnikov I.  Neanderthal DNA. In: Cooper, D.N. (ed.) Nature Encyclopedia of the Human Genome. London: Nature Publishing Group, 2003, Vol. 4:  282-286.

Ovchinnikov I, Goodwin W. The isolation and identification of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA. Profiles in DNA 2001, 4, 2: 7-9.

Ovchinnikov I, Lidén K, Goodwin W. Neanderthal DNA in the Caucasus and population genetics of archaic humans. Athena Review: Journal of Archaeology, History, and Exploration 2001, 2: 53-58.

Ovchinnikov I.V., Götherstöm A, Romanova GP, Kharitonov VM, Lidén K, Goodwin W. Reply: Neanderthal DNA: Not just old but old and cold? Nature 2001, 410: 772.

Ovchinnikov I.V., Götherstöm A, Romanova GP, Kharitonov VM, Lidén K, Goodwin W. Molecular analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the northern Caucasus. Nature 2000, 404: 490-493.


LINE-1 Retrotransposons 

Mathews, L.M., Chi, S.Y., Greenberg, N., Ovchinnikov, I., Swergold, G.D. Large differences between LINE-1 amplification rates in the human and chimpanzee lineages. American Journal of Human Genetics 2003, 72: 739-748.

Ovchinnikov, I., Rubin, A., Swergold, G. Tracing the LINEs of Human Evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2002, 99: 10522-10527.

Ovchinnikov, I., Troxel, A., Swergold, G. Genomic characterization of recent human LINE-1 insertions: Evidence supporting random transposition. Genome Research 2001, 11: 2050-2058.


Forensic and Ancient DNA 

Ovchinnikov, I.V., Malek, M.J., Kjelland, K., Drees, K. (2016). Whole human mitochondrial DNA sequencing. In John Walker, William Goodwin (Ed.), Forensic DNA Typing Protocols. Methods in Molecular Biology, Vol. 1420, pp. 157 - 172. New York: Springer Humana Press. http://www.springer.com/series/7651. 

Ovchinnikov, I.V., Malek, M.J., Drees, K., Kholina, O.I. Mitochondrial DNA variation in Tajiks living in Tajikistan. Legal Medicine, 2014, 16: 390 – 395.

Ovchinnikov, I.V., Goodwin, W. Ancient human DNA from Sungir? Journal of Human Evolution 2003, 44: 389-392.

Ovchinnikov, I., Buzhilova, A., Mednikova, M., Goodwin, W., Curry, G. Ethnic affinities of the ancient human Jety-Asar population by mitochondrial DNA analysis. Electrophoresis 1999, 20: 1729-1732.

Ovchinnikov, I.V., Ovtchinnikova, O.I., Druzina, E.B., Buzhilova, A.P., Makarov, N.A. Molecular genetic sex determination of Medieval human remains from North Russia: Comparison with archaeological and anthropological criteria. Anthropologischer Anzeiger 1998, 56: 7-15.

Rogaev, E., Ovchinnikov, I.V., George-Hyslop, P., Rogaeva, E. Comparison of mitochondrial DNA sequences of T.N. Kulikovskii-Romanov, the nephew of Tsar Nikolai II Romanov, with those of DNA obtained from the putative remains of the Tsar. Russian Journal of Genetics 1996, 32: 1472-1474. 

Ovchinnikov IV, Chystiakov DA, Nosikov VV, Ovtchinnikova OI, Chizhov VV. PCR-based determination of  HLA-DQA1 and some VNTR  allele  frequency  profiles  in  East Slavonic populations for identity testing.  In:  Advances in Forensic Sciences. Ed. by B.Jacob, W.Bonte. Berlin, 1995, V.6: 97-106. 

Ovtchinnikova OI, Chelnokova MV, Ovchinnikov IV. High degraded DNA typing for discrimination of decomposed human remains after explosion. In: Advances in Forensic Sciences. Ed. by B.Jacob, W.Bonte. Berlin, 1995, V.6: 137-139. 

Ovchinnikov IV, Gavrilov DK, Nosikov VV, Debabov VG. Use of the polymerase chain reaction for typing allelic variants of the human HLA-DQA1 gene by hybridization with oligonucleotide probes specific for particular alleles. Molecular Biology (Moscow) 1991, 25: 1266-1272. 

Ovchinnikov IV, Gavrilov DK, Nosikov VV, Debabov VG. The use of polymerase chain reaction to analyze allelic variations of HLA-DQ alpha and beta genes. In: Metabolism and Enzymology of Nucleic Acids Including Gene and Protein Engineering. Ed. by J.Balan. Bratislava, 1991: 227-235.


Medical Genetics 

Illarioshkin SN, Bagieva GKh, Klyushnikov SA, Ovchinnikov IV, Markova ED, Ivanova-Smolenskaya IA. Different phenotypes of Friedreich’s ataxia within one “pseudo-dominant” genealogy: relationships between trinucleotide (GAA) repeat lengths and clinical features. European Journal of Neurology 2000, 7: 535-540. 

Anokhina, I.P., Veretinskaia, A.G., Vasileva, G.N. & Ovchinnikov, I,V. Biological mechanisms of individual predisposition to psychoactive drug abuse. Human Physiology (Moscow) 2000, 26, 6: 74-81. 

Ivanova-Smolenskaya IA, Ovchinnikov IV, Karabanov AV, Deineko NL, Poleshchuk VV, Markova ED, Illarioshkin SN. A major mutation in the ATP7B gene in Russian families with Wilson’s disease. Journal of Medical Genetics 1999, 36: 174. 

Ovchinnikov IV, Druzina E, Ovtchinnikova O, Zagorovskaya T, Nebarakova T, Anokhina IP. Polymorphism of dopamine receptor D2 and D4 genes among alcohol-dependent subjects with Slavic surnames. Addiction Biology 1999, 4: 399-404. 

Illarioshkin, S.N., Druzina, E.B., Bagieva, G., Markova, E.D., Miklina, N.I., Ovchinnikov, I.V. & Ivanova-Smolenskaya, I.A. Friedreich’s disease: a real spectrum of clinical manifestations and direct DNA-diagnostics. Korsakov Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry (Moscow) 1999, 99, 8: 15-19. 

Anokhina, I.P., Vertinskaia, A.G., Vekshina, N.L., Nebarakova, T.P., Ovchinnikov, I.V., Druzina, E.B. & Ovchinnikova, O.I. Hereditary alcoholism: some neuro-chemical and genetic mechanisms. Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences 1999, 6: 43-47. 

Illarioshkin SN, Slominsky PA, Ovchinnikov  IV,  Markova ED, Miklina NI, Klyushnikov SA, Shadrina M, Vereshchagin NV, Limborskaya  SA, Ivanova-Smolenskaya IA. Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 in Russia.  Journal of Neurology 1996, 243: 506-510. 

Gavrilov DK, Ovchinnikov IV, Chelnokova MV, Nosikov VV. The use of synthetic oligonucleotide primers for prenatal diagnosis of sex in chorionic villi via the polymerase chain reaction. Nucleic Acids Research 1991, 19 (Suppl.): 257. 

Gavrilov DK, Ovchinnikov IV, Nosikov VV. The use of PCR technique and sequence specific oligonucleotides for HLA-DQA1 and DQB1 gene typing in a group of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients in the Russian population of Moscow. Nucleic Acids Research 1991, 19 (Suppl.): 258. 

Gavrilov DK, Ovchinnikov IV, Vassilev VB, Mosikov VV. The use of polymerase chain reaction for amplification of DNA from paraffin-embedded tissues in patients with hepatitis B virus infection. Path. Res. Pract. 1991, 187: 692-693.