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Jennifer Becker

With a Trace Forensic Science Program Proves Popular While interviewing for a job with the Federal Bureau

Assistant Professor and Director of Forensic Science Edward Bartick

of Investigation in 1986, Edward Bartick was asked why he thought he would be a good forensic scientist. For Bartick, with his PhD in materials science and years of experience as an industrial chemist, the answer was elementary. “Every analytical chemist is a Sherlock Holmes at heart,” he replied. Bartick spent the next 20 years as a research scientist in the FBI Laboratory’s Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit. He specialized in Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and Raman spectroscopic analysis methods, which enable scientists to identify the chemical composition of trace evidence. At the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he led courses for forensic scientists on FTIR analysis of trace materials. In January 2007 he became the first director of Suffolk’s forensic science program, a concentration within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “This is a developing field,” Bartick says. “It is very important to train students well.” Two decades after Professor Doris Lewis established a forensic science course in collaboration with the

Boston Police Crime Laboratory, more than 50 percent of the department’s majors are enrolled in this concentration— a fourfold enrollment increase in the past five years. Bartick’s students scrutinize the whorls of fingerprints and the patterns of footprint molds. They learn to analyze the composition of fibers and paint chips through spectrometer readings. They gain a new appreciation for the scientific method, which—as impartial forensic scientists who may be called to testify on the witness stand—they will need to rigorously follow in their professional lives. Later in their studies, they will complete internships at the Boston Police Crime Lab and other local forensic, biomedical, and corporate laboratories. Bartick refers to the CSI effect when explaining the fascination with forensics. He teaches the aspiring scientists in his classroom that crimes are not often solved in 44 minutes. “I consider CSI science fiction,” he says. “You don’t send a fingerprint over the computer and come up with the match a few seconds later. We show students there’s so much more to it.”

M. J. Madden and Doris Lewis

What’s for Dinner? That fast-food french fry you’re holding in your hands could be hazardous to your health. Sure, there is the saturated fat from the cooking oil. But there is another, lesser-known risk: the potato may be lacking its essential minerals. “The way many potatoes and other produce are grown is disrupting nature’s elemental cycle,” says chemistry professor Doris Lewis. Trace minerals are not replaced in the soil unless organic farming methods are used, fertilizing the soil with decomposed plants or manures and returning the whole body of plant and animal products to the earth. According to Lewis, the nutritional value of trace minerals, not usually included in nutritional analysis, is an important consideration in favor of organic food choices. Lewis began focusing on foods in her courses to show her students that applications of chemistry are everywhere, and that they can use their chemical knowledge to make everyday choices. Reading food labels



with her students made her realize that none of these packaged foods was nutritionally desirable, and made her wonder where “real” food existed. Looking at the chemical issues behind food she came to the conclusion that “whole, organic food is best not only for the planet, but for each individual’s health.” She is part of a small but growing number of chemists who are investigating the chemistry of trace metals and what our current pattern of food consumption does to humans and the environment. A new atomic-absorption instrument being installed in the chemistry and biochemistry department this fall will enable Suffolk students to analyze for trace metals themselves. “Food is universal,” says Lewis. “It’s a good entry point for the students to learn chemistry.” Her students are learning chemistry and more as they explore what she calls “eating as a personal, political, and ecological act.”

Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Doris Lewis

Suffolk Arts+Sciences IMAGINE  

Issue No. 3 // 2010 IMAGINE

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