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Forensic Identification Using Individual Chemical Signatures

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
San Diego
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $1,518,268)

As submitted by the proposer: Every day, personal objects such as phones, keys, pens, purses and wallets are in constant contact with our skin. On a daily basis, any one given individual person is in contact with various objects, and exposed to a unique set of microbes, eat specific foods, have a specific personal care routines, take medications, wear specific clothes and there are many other specific environmental exposures. Therefore the chemical make-up of outermost layer of the skin is highly individualized as the chemistry is defined by a person’s lifestyle. Each of these exposures leaves behind specific chemical traces on the skin surface that, if one can detect the chemistries, can tell a story about the personal lifestyle of that individual. These chemistries from the skin are also transferred to personal belongings. Here we propose to use lifestyle chemistries that can be detected on personal objects such as phones or keys to gain insight into the lifestyle of the individual to whom the items belong to (e.g. the type of foods they like?, what medications they are on?, the type of personal care products they use? etc). Furthermore, we will determine if the detection of lifestyle chemistries can be a unique identifier of the person to whom the personal objects belong to. While each individual molecule is unlikely to be deterministic that objects are touched or belong to specific individuals but the collective repertoire of molecules found on such objects is anticipated to provide a unique signature corresponding to an individual. The key advances that will make this work possible are not only the direct utilization of very sensitive mass spectrometry methods (think of these as fancy scales that can weigh molecules) but also the development and application of computational approaches to cross-correlate the chemistries that are detected. In this two year proposal, we will bring together experts in chemical analysis, chemoinformatics, statistics and computer science to develop a general approach that enables the detection of skin chemistries and perform person association to personal objects as well as to gain insight into the lifestyle of those individuals through correlations of skin chemistries found on personal objects. This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 24, 2015