401 Introducing Forensic Chemistry to the Undergraduate Curriculum

Friday, November 6, 2009: 1:15 PM
Kohlberg (Camino Real Hotel)
Elizabeth Gardner , Department of Justice Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
A quality forensic science program must provide the student with an extensive background in the natural sciences and provide ample opportunity for hands-on experience in laboratory coursework.  Usually, this is translated as meaning expensive analytical equipment.  However, there are ways to bring quality instruction into the forensic chemistry lab, without spending upwards of $70,000 for a GC/MS, HPLC, or SEM system.

The instrumentation:

·         Toxi-Lab

·         ELISA

·         AFIS

·         LIMS

Toxi-Lab is an extensive thin layer chromatography (TLC) system used to identify over 700 illicit, pharmaceutical, and over-the-counter drugs.  Toxi-Lab is a presumptive test for biological samples.  The advantages of Toxi-Lab are multi-drug screening, low start-up and maintenance costs, and a ng/ml limit of detection.  The main disadvantage of Toxi-Lab is that it is more commonly used in small labs as larger labs use automated immunoassay systems.

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is a more common method for presumptive drug testing of biological samples.  The advantages of ELISA are ng/ml limit of detection and automation for labs with a high volume of samples.  The disadvantages include cross-reactivity within a drug class and high maintenance costs.

An Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is used to scan a 10-print card or latent print, identify the characteristics of the print, enter the print into the AFIS database, and perform searches against the database.  

Finally, while again not strictly chemistry, a Laboratory Information Management System (LIBS) is an essential part of any large crime lab.