Hair elements distinguish ethnicity and gender

Written by Rebecca Brodie for Chemistry World

A new forensic tool, being developed by scientists in Canada, uses a combination of spectroscopy and statistical analysis to determine a person’s gender and ethnicity from a thread of head hair.

Trace evidence, like hair, can help determine who was at a crime scene © Shutterstock

Trace evidence, like hair, can help determine who was at a crime scene © Shutterstock

Evidence left at the scene of a crime can be in many different forms including fingerprints, blood, fibres, paint chips and hair. It is the role of forensic scientists to analyse this evidence, which is often only present in very small amounts, to help find the culprits. In previous research, blood has been used to identify gender and ethnicity, but a problem with this is that blood can deteriorate quickly and can easily be destroyed or contaminated.

To read the full article, visit Chemistry World.

Original article can be read below:

Ethnic background and gender identification using electrothermal vaporization coupled to inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry for forensic analysis of human hair
Lily Huang and Diane Beauchemin
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, 29, 1228-1232
DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00071D

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JAAS 30 weeks to 30- Week 3!

 Speciation of chromium in cow's milk by solid-phase extraction/dynamic reaction cell inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (DRC-ICP-MS)

This week is leather! We had to be a little creative with our choice this week. While we couldn’t find a paper that looked specifically at leather, we did find one investigating another product we get from cows, in this case milk.

Speciation of chromium in cow’s milk by solid-phase extraction/dynamic reaction cell inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (DRC-ICP-MS)
Abayneh A. Ambushe, Robert I. McCrindle and Cheryl M. E. McCrindle
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2009, 24, 502-507
DOI: 10.1039/B819962K

This paper will be free to read until 4th July!

In 2 weeks… Wood!

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JAAS 30 weeks to 30 – Week 2!

Rapid analysis of volatile arsenic species released from lake sediment by a packed cotton column coupled with atomic fluorescence spectrometry

Rapid analysis of volatile arsenic species released from lake sediment by a packed cotton column coupled with atomic fluorescence spectrometry

Continuing our lead up to the 30th anniversary of JAAS, this week we have a paper for cotton.

Rapid analysis of volatile arsenic species released from lake sediment by a packed cotton column coupled with atomic fluorescence spectrometry
Chun-Gang Yuan, Kegang Zhang, Zhenhua Wang and Guibin Jiang
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2010, 25, 1605-1611
DOI: 10.1039/C0JA00005A

This paper will be free to read until 30th June.

Next week… leather

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JAAS 30th Anniversary in 2015 – 30 weeks to 30!

Combining XANES, ICP-AES, and SEM/EDS for the study of phytate chelating treatments used on iron gall ink damaged manuscripts

Combining XANES, ICP-AES, and SEM/EDS for the study of phytate chelating treatments used on iron gall ink damaged manuscripts

Next year sees the 30th Anniversary for JAAS, and to celebrate we are marking out the 30 weeks leading up to this fantastic milestone! Each week we will be highlighting a JAAS paper that corresponds (albeit sometimes very loosely) with the traditional wedding anniversary presents.

To kick start us off, week 1 is Paper.

Combining XANES, ICP-AES, and SEM/EDS for the study of phytate chelating treatments used on iron gall ink damaged manuscripts
Véronique Rouchon, Eleonora Pellizzi, Maroussia Duranton, Frederik Vanmeert and Koen Janssens
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2011, 26, 2434-2441
DOI: 10.1039/C1JA10185D

This paper will be free to read until June 27th.

Next week….Cotton!

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Synchrotron radiation and neutrons in art and archaeology (SR2A 2014) registration deadline soon!

Synchrotron radiation and neutrons in art and archaeology (SR2A-2014)

Musée du Louvre, Paris, 9—12 Sept 2014

Deadline for Early bird registration and Poster abstracts: June 15th

For more information see the website: www.sr2a-2014.org

The conference will consist of three full days of oral presentations and poster sessions in the heart of the Louvre museum, Paris, France: 9—12 September 2014.

SR2A-2014 is open to all interested professionals, including archaeologists, conservation scientists, conservators, geochemists and material scientists, researchers with experience utilising large-scale research facilities and other analytical techniques, curators, cultural heritage managers, art historians, students, potential users of synchrotrons, etc. The Louvre venue is intended to provide an unprecedented opportunity for professionals from Europe and worldwide to meet and share their expertise and experience.

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In memory of Jan Košler

Recently, we received the very sad and unexpected news that our Advisory Board member Professor Jan Košler had passed away, only 49 years old.

Jan Kosler

Professor Jan Košler, Photograph: University of Bergen

Jan graduated from Charles University, Prague, in 1988 and went on to do his PhD in Glasgow, Scotland, where he finished in 1993. He became lecturer, and in 2003, Associate Professor at Charles University, Prague. During this period, he spent one year in Memorial University, Canada and two years in Bergen as a visiting research fellow. In 2005 he got an Associate Professorship at the Department of Earth Science of the University of Bergen and became a full professor there in 2007. During his time in Bergen, Jan spent one year at University of Vienna, Austria, and this last year at the Geological Survey of Canada in Ottawa, Canada.

As an internationally respected analytical geochemist, Jan had a particular research interest in isotope geochemistry, isotopic dating and mass spectrometry development, particularly in natural small-scale isotope ratio variations. In his research, he made use of various micro-beam techniques, such as laser ablation ICP-MS or secondary ion mass spectrometry, and he was regarded as a leading expert in this field. His research focus spanned from hydrothermal mineral deposits on the Mid-Atlantic ridge to the use of isotope geochemistry for deciphering the provenance of sediments and the evolution and cycling of crustal rocks in orogenic belts. He had an enviable track record of publishing innovative analytical developments.

Jan was a principal investigator on a number of projects and had broad international networks. As part of his research, he carried out field work in Europe, Africa, South America and Western Antarctica. Besides being an outstanding scientist, he had broad teaching experiences, in petrology, mineralogy, geochemistry, isotope geology and laser ablation techniques. Jan was a respected and very well-liked teacher and supervisor.

JAAS has always appreciated Jan’s efforts for the well-being of the journal and for convincing his fellow geochemists to publish their analytical developments in our journal. We will all miss Jan’s friendly face on the conferences we attend, as well as the stimulating scientific discussions and social talks with him. With Jan Košler the scientific community is losing a dedicated colleague and a very good friend.

Our thoughts are with his family, his wife Alena and his son and daughter.

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HOT articles in JAAS

Take a look at these new HOT articles just published in JAAS. These papers will be free to read for the next 4 weeks. Enjoy!

Determination of fluorine in plant materials via calcium mono-fluoride using high-resolution graphite furnace molecular absorption spectrometry with direct solid sample introduction
Aline R. Borges, Luciane L. François, Bernhard Welz, Eduardo Carasek and Maria Goreti R. Vale 
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00067F, Paper

Spectroscopic imaging: a spatial Odyssey
Freddy Adams 
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00050A, Perspective

Ethnic background and gender identification using electrothermal vaporization coupled to inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry for forensic analysis of human hair
Lily Huang and Diane Beauchemin 
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00071D, Paper

Development and characterization of custom-engineered and compacted nanoparticles as calibration materials for quantification using LA-ICP-MS
Daniel Tabersky, Norman A. Luechinger, Michael Rossier, Eric Reusser, Kathrin Hametner, Beat Aeschlimann, Daniel A. Frick, Samuel C. Halim, Jay Thompson, Leonid Danyushevsky and Detlef Günther 
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014,29, 955-962
DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00054D, Paper

Compensation of inorganic acid interferences in ICP-OES and ICP-MS using a Flow Blurring® multinebulizer
Miguel Ángel Aguirre, Lucimar L. Fialho, Joaquim A. Nóbrega, Montserrat Hidalgo and Antonio Canals 
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00079J, Paper

LA-ICP-MS Pb–U dating of young zircons from the Kos–Nisyros volcanic centre, SE Aegean arc
M. Guillong, A. von Quadt, S. Sakata, I. Peytcheva and O. Bachmann 
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014,29, 963-970
DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00009A, Paper

Old traces, read anew – ‘The Reading Hermit’ painting in the light of X-ray fluorescence
C. Seim, C. Laurenze-Landsberg, B. Schröder-Smeibidl, I. Mantouvalou, C. de Boer and B. Kanngießer 
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C3JA50301A, Paper

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May’s Bioanalytical Highlights

Welcome to this month’s bioanalytical highlights, keeping you up to date with latest developments in elemental analysis with a biological twist. All articles are free to read until June 30th.

The potential for a carbon stable isotope biomarker of dietary sugar intake
A. Hope Jahren, Joshua N. Bostic and Brenda M. Davy
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, 29, 795An image showing Egeria densa gorwing and spectra showing 134Cs, 137Cs, and 40K

A new closed-vessel conductively heated digestion system: fostering plant analysis by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy
Kelber Miranda, Edenir Rodrigues Pereira-Filho and José Anchieta Gomes Neto
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, 29, 825

Radiocesium accumulation in Egeria densa, a submerged plant – possible mechanism of cesium absorption
Hikaru Kowata, Yoshiyasu Nagakawa, Noboru Sakurai, Akiko Hokura, Yasuko Terada, Hiroshi Hasegawa and Emiko Harada
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, 29, 868

Speciation analysis of sugar phosphates via anion exchange chromatography combined with inductively coupled plasma dynamic reaction cell mass spectrometry – optimization for the analysis of yeast cell extracts
Dinh Binh Chu, Kristaps Klavins, Gunda Koellensperger and Stephan Hann
J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2014, 29, 915

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Call for papers: FFF- or SP- ICP-MS for nanomaterial analysis

Cover image of JAAS, Issue 5, 2014You are invited to contribute to the upcoming JAAS themed issue dedicated to the analysis of engineered and natural nanomaterials by field-flow fractionation (FFF-) or single particle (SP-) inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).

For your article to be considered for this themed issue we must receive your manuscript by November 7th 2014.

Guest Edited by Björn Meermann and Francisco Laborda, the themed issue will showcase the current state-of-the-art of ICP-MS, either in combination with field-flow fractionation or in single particle mode, for the analysis of engineered and natural nanomaterials. The themed issue is open to both fundamental studies and applications covering all areas of associated research (e.g., environment, material sciences, biosciences, toxicology, ecotoxicology).

Please contact us if you are interested in contributing to the themed issue, which welcomes review articles, original research papers and communications.

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The Next Generation – An Interview with Ioana Konz

Today, we interview Ioana Konz, who recently defended her PhD successfully at the University of Oviedo, under the supervision of Dr. Beatriz Fernández-García and Dr. Mª Luisa Fernández Sánchez, and continues working in the research group of Prof. Dr. Alfredo Sanz-Medel.

Ioana in her lab in Oviedo

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?

Both of my parents are chemists, so I suppose the scientific way of thinking was somehow put into my cradle. Furthermore, during the 10th grade in school my chemistry teacher had a very fascinating and inspiring way of explaining chemical phenomena. In contrast to the other Chemistry teachers, who had passed the conventional pedagogical education, he completed his Chemistry studies with a PhD and decided afterwards to dedicate his time to teaching in grammar school sixth form. Maybe because of the different educational background, he showed us another way of understanding Science and I wanted to see the world of Chemistry and all its ramifications through his eyes. That was when I first had the idea of studying Chemistry. The last three years in school, before entering University, strengthened my interest in Natural Sciences, so that finally my choice of studying Chemistry was quite easy.

Why did you choose your research group/University and what factors influenced your choice?

The last year of the Chemistry studies consisted in a 9-months laboratory work on a specific project and writing a report about the obtained results. At that time I had the opportunity to attend a very interesting presentation of Dr. Jörg Bettmer about ICP-MS and its impact on Bioanalytical Chemistry. When it came to the question whether I could carry out my diploma thesis in his research group he agreed but told me at the same time that he was continuing his research work in Spain as a member of the group of Prof. Alfredo Sanz-Medel. Due to the very interesting research topics carried out in his outstanding research group and its excellent reputation in the elemental MS community, after the diploma thesis I decided to extend my stay in the Analytical Spectrometry Group and carry out my Ph.D. in Oviedo

Can you explain a bit the purpose of your current research activities?

My research in Prof. Sanz-Medel’s group is related to the development of new analytical strategies for quantitative and spatially resolved direct solid analysis by LA-ICP-MS. One of the major remaining challenges in LA-ICP-MS analysis is still the reliability of the obtained quantitative data. In this vein, during my Ph.D. my research was focused, on the one hand, on the development of precise and accurate quantification strategies for trace elements in different solid matrices. On the other hand, both in qualitative and quantitative elemental imaging, the correction of the LA-ICP-MS signal for matrix effects, variations in ablated and transported mass and instrumental drifts still presents a great challenge. Thus, investigations on the applicability of several signal normalization approaches for elemental imaging analysis represented an important part of my work.

Having always in mind the idea of improving existing methodologies and instrumentation, and based on the experience gained in this research group throughout the years, finally, but not less important, we designed and assembled of a novel cryogenic laser ablation cell.

Nonetheless, the key for successful and forward-looking research are collaborations between different scientific disciplines as generally carried out in the research group of Prof. Alfredo Sanz-Medel. In my special case these fruitful collaborations were with engineers for the design of the laser ablation cell and with ophthalmologists, building in such way a bridge between Analytical Chemistry and biological fundamentals of ocular diseases.

How is a typical day in your lab?

Recently, I finished my Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry, so I consider myself as a senior scientist in the research group. Due to the valuable experience I earned over these years, I spend many hours helping my fellow colleagues, especially young scientists, in planning of experiments and operating analytical instrumentation. Of course, some of the experimental data will be translated into scientific publications. Therefore, the writing of scientific articles is also part of my work. When I’m not in the lab or behind my desk reading articles, I meet with my former supervisors to discuss on projects or collaboration partners.

What common activities are organized in your research group?

In our research group we have weekly meetings where we discuss on scientific topics and organisational issues before a Ph.D. student presents his recent research progress. Afterwards we have valuable discussions about the presentation and the work, where everyone can contribute with new ideas or suggestions. In this way we can stay up-to-date in different lines of investigation, since each student is working on his own project in different fields of research.

Our research group has also a long history in social events. Usually we are organizing a group-dinner before the Christmas vacations and a summer lunch in July. This gives us the possibility to stay in touch with all our colleagues, since some of them are working in other laboratories.

What app/programs do you typically use?

Most of the data treatment as well as the preparation of experiments, such as calculations of solutions etc., is done by MS Excel. For the translation of the LA-ICP-MS row-data into elemental imagines I apply Origin. This program is also used for graphical data. For the processing of pictures, photographs etc. I usually chose Adobe Photoshop.

How do you search for scientific information? How do you manage your bibliography?

Scopus is my first choice for any kind of scientific search. All the downloaded publications are then transferred into a general folder along with Ph.D. thesis or patents. These documents are listed in a special table I generated with Excel. This list presents the name of the document, authors, name of the journal, keywords etc. which facilitates my search for a certain manuscript. Since all entries are linked to the corresponding documents, each one can be opened individually by pushing the hyperlink.

What are your views on JAAS? Which type of articles do you prefer? Do you miss some content?

I published my first article in JAAS. For me as a young scientist this was an honor since JAAS is internationally regarded as one of the leading journals dealing with analytical atomic spectrometry presenting innovative research on the fundamental theory and application of spectrometric techniques. Throughout my Ph.D. it was and still is one of my first choices to look for answers related to questions arising during my scientific work. I cannot really say that I prefer a special type of article as this strongly depends on the current question I am working on. Sometimes I can find the relevant information in a review and sometimes in full papers or technical notes.

What do you like and dislike the most about your work?

I think the experiences gained throughout the Ph.D. were most valuable since they led not only to my scientific but also to my personal formation. What I most like about my work is that it gave me the possibility to strengthen my independent way of thinking as well as the capability to look beyond the own scientific horizon and open the mind for new fields. I cannot really name something that I don’t like about my work, but if I had to choose something that I like less of the scientific work in general, I would say that it is the influence of politics in Science which sometime hampers the development of new ideas and projects.

What do you expect to be doing in 5 years time?

In five years I see myself working in analytical research and development outside the academic sector. I am always searching for new challenges and I am sure that real life will constantly bring up new questions the scientific world can deal with. In this vein, my aim is to contribute positively in this process trying to find solutions which improve man’s life quality.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not in the lab?

During these last years I had the privilege to live in a real natural paradise surrounded by high mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, so most of my free time, especially on weekends, I went hiking with my family enjoying the peace and silence in the Nature. I also like to spend time with my friends and family, chatting while having a good meal.

Thanks a lot, Ioana!

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