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Chemistry Colloquium: Professor Rabi Musah, SUNY Albany

Fri, February 28th, 2020
1:10 pm
- 2:30 pm

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New Frontiers in Forensic Science—Applications of Ambient Ionization Mass Spectrometry to Carrion Insect Identification, Wild-life Trafficking, and the Characterization of “Legal High” Plant Materials

A continuing challenge in analytical chemistry is the identification of complex matrices, particularly those found in nature, such as animal-derived products and plant materials. In general, attempts to characterize complex matrices rely on identification of diagnostic singular components such as biomarkers, a process which requires extensive sample preparation. The steps involved, which can include solvent selection, extraction procedures and method optimization, cause bottlenecks in the analysis of composite materials. This negatively impacts several fields, including forensics, agriculture, and the food industry. However, the development of approaches to accomplish this task also has the potential to lead to new discoveries in other areas such as plant biochemistry, chemical ecology and environmental science. We posit that the ability to identify highly complex materials is greatly amplified by considering a broad range of detected molecules. In this regard, direct analysis in real time-high resolution mass spectrometry offers unique opportunities to routinely and rapidly detect molecules in complex matrices that span the dielectric constant spectrum. Furthermore, the application of chemometric processing tools to the mass spectral data enables identification of many types of materials. Demonstrated here is how this approach can be applied to forensic identification of illegally traded wild-life, characterization of necrophagous insects that are important in assessment of time-since-death (i.e. post mortem interval), and the identification of psychoactive plant drugs used as “legal highs”.

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