E22: Portable Spectroscopy and Its Application in Forensic Science

One-Day Course
Date/time to be announced; 8:30am – 5:00pm

Dr. Richard Crocombe, Crocombe Spectroscopic Consulting, Winchester, MA
Dr. Pauline Leary, Federal Resources, Stevensville, MD

This course will cover the capabilities of modern portable spectrometers covering elemental spectroscopy (x-ray fluorescence and laser induced breakdown spectroscopy), molecular/optical (uv-visible, infrared and Raman), and mass spec/molecular (ion mobility and gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy).  Portable biological and rapid DNA analyses will be touched on briefly.   For each technique the applications of these instruments for forensic science will be described, with the advantages and limitations of each method detailed.  This is a ‘hands-on’ course (when given in person), including instrument demonstrations and the opportunity to use them.

Forensic science professionals and students, and all others interested in using, or proposing to use portable spectrometers.  Examples of related applications include law enforcement (narcotics), hazardous materials (HazMat), safety & security and counterfeit detection.


Note: all sections include demonstrations and ‘hands-on’ opportunities

  1. Background and History for Portable Spectrometers
  2. Generating Results from Spectra: Libraries, Databases and Algorithms
  3. Portable Optical Instruments (UV-Visible, Near-Infrared, Mid-Infrared and Raman)
    a. Instrumentation
    b. Forensic Application
  4. Portable Mass Spectrometry (MS, GC-MS and IMS)
    a. Instrumentation
    b. Forensic Application
  5. Portable Elemental Analysis (XRF and LIBS)
    a. Instrumentation
    b. Forensic Application
  6. Portable Biological and Rapid DNA Analyses
  7. References and Further Reading

Dr. Richard Crocombe graduated from Oxford University (BA, MA, chemistry) and the University of Southampton (PhD, chemistry & spectroscopy) in the UK.  He moved to the US, initially for a postdoctoral fellowship, and then joined Digilab (Bio-Rad) working on laboratory FT-IR.  He held numerous positions at Digilab over the years, but concentrated on product and applications development, including step-scan FT-IR applications and spectroscopic imaging using two-dimensional focalplane array detectors.  About fifteen years ago he changed course to concentrate on miniature, portable and handheld spectroscopic instruments, working at Axsun Technologies (tunable near-infrared lasers), Thermo Fisher Scientific (XRF, Raman, FT-IR, near-infrared), and finally PerkinElmer (portable GC-MS).  In 2017 he left the corporate world to set up his own consulting company, helping to commercialize new miniature spectroscopic technologies.  He was the 2020 President of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, an SPIE Senior Member (2017), and received the Williams-Wright Award for industrial spectroscopy in 2012.

Dr. Pauline Leary is a Reachback Chemist for Federal Resources, specializing in training law enforcement and military personnel in the use of portable instruments.  Prior to that she was  a Technical Solutions Engineer for Smiths Detection, Inc., working with military, emergency-response, transportation and critical-infrastructure customers to help them develop solutions to the problems they are experiencing with detecting, identifying and quantifying dangerous substances and other contraband in the field.  Prior to joining Smiths in 2005, Pauline worked as scientist performing physical testing within the R&D division of Purdue Pharma, LP.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marist College, a Master of Science degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  She works closely with Prof. Brooke Kammrath (University of New Haven and the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science).

Drs. Crocombe and Leary, along with Prof. Brooke Kammrath, are the editors of a two-volume book on Portable Spectroscopy published in April 2021 by John Wiley, comprising over 40 chapters written by experts in their respective fields.