The scientific journal Forensic Chemistry included seven papers stemming from NIJ research grants in a recent list of its top 25 papers most cited by other researchers since the journal was established in 2016. The number one most cited article is a 2016 paper by NIJ-supported researchers at the University at Albany-SUNY.
Forensic Chemistry, focuses on the theory, research, and application of chemical science to forensic analysis, and includes, as detailed on its website, “fundamental advancements that result in a better understanding of the evidentiary significance derived from the physical and chemical analysis of materials.”
Of the seven NIJ-related papers ranked in the top 25, four – including the most cited paper – came from the research group of Prof. Igor Lednev at the University at Albany – SUNY, and stem from a 2014 NIJ grant titled Raman spectroscopy for analyzing body fluid traces: Moving towards a practical forensic application.
The Forensic Chemistry papers reflect just a small part of the wide range of NIJ’s support for forensic science research and development. NIJ’s broader R&D portfolio includes such areas as forensic DNA, trace evidence, forensic anthropology, controlled substances, crime scene investigation, and more.
The seven NIJ-related papers on Forensic Chemistry’s top 25 list, in order of appearance, are:
1) Forensic body fluid identification and differentiation by Raman spectroscopy (Vol. 1, Aug. 2016).The paper details a method using Raman spectroscopy and statistical modeling that allows investigators to differentiate between different body fluids collected at a crime scene. The model successfully discriminated between five body fluids – peripheral blood, saliva, semen, sweat, and vaginal fluid – with nearly 100 percent accuracy. The authors are Claire Muro, Kyle Doty, Luciana de Souza Fernandes, and Igor Lednev, University at Albany (SUNY), New York.
4) Predicting the time of the crime: Bloodstain aging estimation for up to two years (Vol. 5, Sept. 2017). Bloodstains are a rich source of information for criminal investigators and this paper details the effectiveness of using Raman spectroscopy to nondestructively analyze bloodstains and probe for changes in aged bloodstains for up to two years. The researchers noted that, “the observed changes in the spectra over time were consistent with the known biochemical processes occurring as blood ages naturally . . .” Following those changes allowed the researchers to show proof of concept in determining the “time since deposition” of the blood, important information for investigators, with about 70 percent accuracy. The authors are Kyle Doty, Claire Muro, and Igor Lednev, University at Albany (SUNY).
10) Improving the confidence of “questioned versus known” fiber comparisons using microspectrophotometry and chemometrics (Vol. 2, Nov. 2016). It has long been challenging for examiners to determine if two apparently similar fibers are consistent with having come from the same source. In this paper researchers analyzed visually similar pairs of blue acrylic fibers with a microspectrophotometer, an instrument that measures the spectrum of the light absorbed. The relative similarity or dissimilarity of each pair was determined through principal component and discriminant analysis of the differences in the spectra. The methods resulted in correct inclusions (matches) in 10 of 11 sets, and correct exclusion (non-matches) in 108 of 110 comparisons. Although their methods “are not infallible,” the scientists said, “they may nonetheless provide a path forward for forensic fiber examiners that has a more scientifically rigorous basis on which to support their findings in a court of law.” The authors are Georgina Sauzier, Eric Reichard, Wilhelm van Bronswijk, Simon Lewis, and John Goodpaster, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).
14) Differentiation of hair using ATR FT-IR spectroscopy: A statistical classification of dyed and non-dyed hairs (Vol. 6, Dec. 2017). Although hair is one of the most common types of evidence found at a crime scene, the authors of this paper noted, the information that can be gathered via standard forensic hair analysis is limited. These researchers used attenuated total reflection Fourier transformation-infrared (ATR FT-IR) spectroscopy on both dyed and non-dyed hairs from individuals varying in race, sex, and age. They used multivariate statistics to predict from the ATR FT-IR spectra whether or not a permanent hair dye was used, and further, to differentiate the brand and color of the dye. It was found that they could determine if a hair had been dyed and predict the brand and color of the dye with 90 percent accuracy. The authors are Mathew Boll, Kyle Doty, Ray Wickenhauser, and Igor Lednev, University at Albany (SUNY).
19) Bloodstains, paintings, and drugs: Raman spectroscopy applications in forensic science (Vol. 8, May 2018). This review article examines the utility of Raman spectroscopy in forensic science, noting that this highly selective spectroscopic technique has great potential for nondestructive examination of a wide variety of forensic evidence. The review specifically examines chemometrics, controlled substances, toxicology, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, explosives, gunshot residue, hair, fibers, paints, lipstick and nail polish, body fluids, forensic anthropology, and questioned documents. “Overall,” the paper concludes, “Raman spectroscopy has proven itself to be a noteworthy and significant technique for the modern forensic scientist.” The authors are Shelby Khandasammy, Marisia Fikiet, Ewelina Mistek, Yasmine Ahmed, Lenka, Halamkova, Justin Bueno, and Igor Lednev, University at Albany (SUNY).
20)Differentiation of homologous and regioisomeric methoxy-cathinone derivatives by GC-MS, MS/MS and GC-IR (Vol. 2, Nov. 2016). This paper demonstrates that similar synthetic cathinones (“bath salt” designer drugs) can be distinguished by using a combination of analytical techniques. Numerous synthetic designer cathinones can be prepared from available precursor materials and the molecular similarity of these drugs is a significant challenge in forensic drug identification. The paper describes the use of a sequence of analytical methods to target different molecular features. The resulting data allow for a specific identification of a single cathinone drug molecule to the exclusion of other closely related substances. The authors are Younis Abiedalla, Jack DeRuiter, Karim Abdel-Hay, and C. Randall Clark, Auburn University.
23) Elemental analysis and characterization of electrical tape backings by LA-ICP-MS (Vol. 4, June 2017). Adhesive tapes are often found as physical evidence in violent crime cases, and in this paper, researchers evaluated the utility of Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) for the characterization of the elemental signatures of electrical tape samples. The researchers analyzed the backings of 90 black electrical tapes that had previously been examined and characterized using several other methods. The researchers examined tape samples from different sources and then tried to associate samples from the same roll of origin. The results showed that LA-ICP-MS “is a useful tool that complements current protocols,” the scientists said, and provided “improved discrimination and superior characterization of the tape samples. The authors are Claudia Martinez-Lopez and Jose Almirall, Florida International University; Tatiana Trejos, West Virginia University; and Andria Mehltretter, Federal Bureau of Investigation.