Lab Manager Magazine Looks at Trace Analysis with Microtrace

lab manager palenik Microtrace


This month, Lab Manager Magazine (June 2018, v. 13, issue 5) ran an article on microscopical trace evidence in forensic investigations entitled “With a Trace: Solving Crimes with Microscopy” by Mike May. In the article, May surveys the microscopes and procedures that scientists use to study a wide variety of forensic trace materials, including gunshot residue and hair. Portions of an interview he conducted with Microtrace Senior Research Microscopist Christopher Palenik on the topics of instrumentation and sample preparation appear in the article.

From the article:

On instrumentation: In many cases, researchers combine other technologies with microscopy. “Nearly every analytical tool used in a trace-evidence lab has been adapted as an accessory to the microscope,” says Christopher Palenik, vice president and senior research microscopist at Microtrace (Elgin, IL). As examples, he mentions infrared and Raman spectroscopy. “In our lab, light microscopy—mainly the stereomicroscope and polarized light microscope—represents a fundamental starting line for all samples,” he says. “The results of these initial microscopical surveys direct the use of other, more specialized microanalytical tools.”

On sample preparation: So, samples must be prepared as needed. Some samples—like fibers or wood—can be isolated under a stereomicroscope. “Microscale separations of compounds through solubility or chromatography represents a way to purify trace residues or liquids,” Palenik says. “The use of specialty preparation methods—such as microtomy, polishing, and ion milling—are becoming increasingly important as trace evidence looks to smaller scales and more precise results.”

To read the full article, click here.


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