West Virginia University students in the Forensic and Investigative Science program have access to a new high-tech tool to help solve crimes, thanks to the federal government.

The U.S. Secret Service recently donated an infrared spectrometer and microscope that will help students analyze evidence found at crime scene investigations, like fibers, paint chips, and polymers and substances used in counterfeit activity, like ink.

The Nicolet Magna-IR Spectrometer model 550 and NIC-Plan IR microscope is valued at $150,000, and will be used in trace evidence and questioned documents examination courses taught by Dr. Patrick Buzzini, teaching assistant professor in the FIS program, as well as forensic chemistry courses. The FIS program also plans to share the spectrometer and microscope with other departments in the Eberly College, like the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry and the Department of Physics, as well as across the University.

The spectrometer works by generating molecular vibrations and sending light across the object being analyzed by the microscope to obtain its chemical and physical makeup. It will be used primarily by Buzzini’s graduate research students, but he plans to incorporate the equipment into modules for the undergraduate capstone course. Dr. Buzzini said the spectrometer helps to recognize the difference in items like dyes, plastics, paint binding resins, pigments and adhesive on various surfaces to determine if evidence shares similar characteristics to other items, suspects and environments.

“The spectrometer will give students an opportunity to learn a routine technique used in common forensic labs and a valuable skill set,” he said. “It is important from a teaching perspective for students to become operational with equipment used in the field as soon as possible.”

Buzzini earned a master’s degree and doctoral degree in forensic science from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, where he taught and performed research. He has worked on several real world forensic cases, worked in the United States for several months in 2004 and permanently arrived in West Virginia to begin teaching at WVU in 2007.

For more information, contact Patrick Buzzini at (304) 293-4551 or Patrick.Buzzini@mail.wvu.edu.



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