Forensic Science: Chemistry

This week we move onto another part of forensic science- chemistry. This discipline looks at most of the non-DNA analysis that goes on at crime scenes. This week we’re talking to Dr. Ruth Smith from Michigan State University to learn about what a forensic chemist does, how they identify different samples, and the research that Dr. Ruth is doing to help make this process even better.

Memorable Quotes

“Forensic chemistry, we often joke, if it’s not DNA, it can probably be analyzed by a forensic chemist.”

“In terms of trace evidence, forensic chemistry is really used to characterize and identify different pieces of evidence…you might have paint analysis, you might have explosives, fire debris, and so on.”

“Forensic chemistry is applied analytical chemistry…[these techniques] gives a chemical profile of the sample that’s being analyzed. And you can compare that to reference material…and you can identify it that way.”

“The advantage [of our research] is that we might be able to predict evaporation [of ignitable liquids] and use that as a tool to help analysts identify liquid [accelerants].”


For students who want are interested in studying forensic chemistry, check out the American Academy of Forensic Science or the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission to find a list of accredited schools.

For younger kids who are interested in forensic science, many CSI camps are hosted around the country. A Google search of “CSI camp + your state” will show you what’s available near you.

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