Reference Collections Presentation by Chris Palenik at CFSRE Symposium

Last week (26-30 July 2021), the Center for Forensic Science Research & Education (CFSRE) presented their 2021 Online Forensic Symposium. Entitled “Current Trends in Forensic Trace Analysis,” the annual symposium focuses on new developments in topics such as, gunshot residue, fire debris, fiber, glass, tape, and paint evidence.

On Thursday, July 29, Microtrace Senior Research Microscopist, Dr. Christopher Palenik presented to the symposium attendees on “Reference Collections in Forensic Fiber Analysis.” He demonstrated the utility of fiber reference collections in training, casework, and research. Through practical examples, he illustrated the development and curation of a collection and its role in developing technical and theoretical knowledge.

Presentations and material from the symposium have been archived for On-Demand access, here.


“Reference Collections in Forensic Fiber Analysis,” Christopher Palenik, Ph.D.

Fiber collections and databases have been built and used by trace evidence scientists and laboratories for decades. In the current climate, where laboratory resources and decisions are commonly driven by metrics and standardization, the development and maintenance of collections are not necessarily valued or supported by management. Yet the benefits of developing, building, and curating even an informal collection has immediate benefits for training, the development theoretical knowledge and technical skills, and understanding of industry trends and technological advances. The value of developing a collection, building a database, validating the samples, collecting useful analytical data, and maintaining the samples and data in a useful form will be discussed.  In the decades since the fiber library at the presenter’s laboratory was started, the collection has grown from a few hundred fibers to tens of thousands of physical samples that include fibers, polymers, shade cards, dyes and pigments.  Examples from the collection and lessons developed during their curation – which consists of organization, validation, and collection, will be discussed.  The talk will conclude (i.e., end) with a practical example that demonstrates the extent of information that can be extracted from a single fiber by combining an advanced analytical approach with literature research, theoretical knowledge, and a curated reference collection.

Current Trends in Forensic Trace Analysis

This global trace evidence symposium presents scientific methods, innovations, and case applications by well-known experts from the trace evidence community. During a weeklong event, they present and share their extensive knowledge of many different topics within trace evidence analysis.

This year’s theme integrates two critical aspects in the strengthening of forensic science: innovation and human factors. We learn from our keynote speaker about the role of Expertise, Expectation, and Experience in the decision-making process. Also, we discuss how human factors in our discipline are not just about bias; they play a critical role in developing policies to improve the well‐being, motivation, and performance of forensic practitioners. Furthermore, we examine the current state and novel topics of gunshot residue, fire debris, fiber, glass, tape, and paint evidence. The last day of the week highlights the importance of (global) collaborative studies in advancing our profession.

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