Our research equipment and instrumentation

Our laboratories are among the best in the nation for undergraduate forensic science programs. You’ll use the same tools that experts are using to analyze chemical, biological, and physical evidence. Read on to learn about the cutting-edge instrumentation and equipment in our department.

This GCMS consists of an Agilent 6890 gas chromatograph coupled with an Agilent 5975 inert mass selective detector, and is equipped with a robotic autosampler. This research instrument is used to separate and identify individual components in mixtures, particularly ignitable liquids from fire debris. Resultant spectra are compared to the NIST national library for association to known compounds.

The genetic analyzer is a necessary tool in the forensic DNA analysts’ tool belt. The 3500 is the latest edition of the instrument, and within the near future, all crime labs will be using this instrument.

The 3500 is capable of analyzing fragments of DNA that have been labeled with a fluorescent dye. As the fragments are separated in the capillaries according to size, they pass through a window where the fluorescent molecule is excited, at which time it emits a photon that is detected and is then translated into data for the analyst to interpret. The data that come from using this instrument include all DNA profiles and sequence data for old, degraded samples.

This microscope magnifies at a relatively low power for viewing and comparing three-dimensional, opaque objects.

The CRAIC QDI 2000(c) microspectrophotometer has a 75W Xenon lamp capable of taking UV-visible-near IR measurements 200–900 nanometers in transmittance mode as well as UV-visible fluorescence and reflectance. The system also can obtain images using a CRAIC CCD that are viewed using IC Capture software. This instrument is used for research and teaching.

A sampling of relevant research projects includes fluorescent dyes for fingerprint development, fluorescent nanoparticles for fingerprint development, human hair dyes, automotive paint clear coats, pigmented inks, explosives, drugs, and fibers. Many of the spectra collected are interpreted with multivariate statistics.

The Foster and Freeman glass refractive index monitoring system is an automated analysis of the refractive index of small transparent particles, mostly glass, and can also be used for plastics and fibers. This is also equipped with a Leica Phase Contrast Light Microscope, which allows for better-quality refractive indices to be measured. This instrument is a staple in forensic laboratories that perform glass analysis.

The Foster and Freeman micro laser Raman has a 785 nanometer, 2.5 megawatt laser and both 20X and 35X objectives. This instrument is being used for teaching and research. It has been used to research automotive paint clear coats, pigmented inks, fibers, and hair dyes.

Headspace gas chromatography with flame ionization detection determines ethanol and methanol content.

Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry combines the physical separation capabilities of liquid chromatography with the mass analysis capabilities of mass spectrometry.

Phase contrast is an optical contrast technique for making unstained phase objects like flat cells visible under the optical microscope. Cells that appear inconspicuous and transparent in brightfield can be viewed in high contrast and rich detail using a phase contrast microscope.

This Leica Polarizing Light Comparison microscope is a necessary component in comparing fibers, minerals, and other materials that have anisotropic optical properties. There are two Leica DMEP student polarizing light microscopes connected with a comparison bridge consisting of a series of mirrors directing the right stage image to the right ocular and the left stage image to the left ocular. The images can be viewed separately, side-by-side, or overlapped. The system also is equipped with a camera to record images. This microscope is used in advanced courses to analyze fibers, hairs, and minerals.

The Microm HM 355 S microtome is a motorized microtome capable of making cross sections 3 micrometers thick. We use embedding media and make routine cross sections of paint chips, hairs or fibers for research. It's currently housed at Newfields.

Dr. Picard’s research lab includes two biological incubators that are used for growth and developmental studies of blow flies (the forensically important flies that like to visit corpses). These incubators carefully control temperature, humidity, and light periods; therefore, any experiment can be programmed.

The Perkin Elmer Spectrum One Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometer has an autoimage microscope attachment including both TGS and MCT detectors. This instrument is capable of taking high-quality infrared spectra in transmittance and reflectance mode using the microscope or transmittance and attenuated total reflectance mode using the main bench or microscope. This instrument is used for teaching the analysis of drugs, fibers, explosives, and paint and for research in automobile paint clear coats, fibers, and hair dyes.

This is an Evolution 210 Thermo Scientific UV-Vis Spectrometer that is useful in forensic chemistry teaching laboratory exercises. This type of analysis is used as a presumptive test in illicit drug analysis to detect absorbance in the ultraviolet and visible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

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