UAlbany Chemistry Graduate Student Receives Honorable Mention for Metrohm USA’s Young Chemist Award

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 14, 2016) -- Erica Brunelle, a second-year Ph.D. chemistry student at the University at Albany, has received an honorable mention for Metrohm USA’s 2016 Young Chemistry award. She was one of only five applicants to be recognized. 

The Young Chemist Award honors novel research in the fields of titration, ion chromatography, spectroscopy and electrochemistry. It is open to all graduate, post-graduate and doctorate students residing and studying in the U.S. and Canada.

Brunelle, a member of UAlbany assistant chemistry professor Jan Halámek’s lab, helped to develop a technique to identify culprits as male or female. It’s based on the chemical components in fingerprints, specifically amino acids.

Her team’s research was published in Analytical Chemistry, October 2015. It garnered tremendous media attention, including an article in the New York Times, as well as popular science magazines including Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), Forensic Magazine, and Science Alert. It was also featured on the front cover of the Albany Times Union, and in more than a dozen international publications.

Brunelle has specifically focused on establishing a quick and simple way to extract the amino acids from a fingerprint sample. She’s developed a protocol that includes transferring the sample onto a piece of plastic wrap, adding a hydrochloric acid solution, and heating. This process allows for the water-soluble amino acids to migrate into the acidic solution. Brunelle, and the rest of Halámek’s team, were able to successfully identify sex from fingerprints that were taken from five different surfaces.

In addition, Brunelle has also authored her first paper (published in Analytical Chemistry, January 2016) which involves determining sex from authentic fingerprints via ninhydrin – a chemical typically used to detect/visualize fingerprints at a crime scene.

Four other students were named honorable mention recipients for the Young Chemist Award. They include, Hae Lin Jang (Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School), Seyedeh Moloud Mousavi (University of Minnesota), Shannon Owings (Georgia Institute of Technology). The winner of the award was Amay Bandodkar (University of California San Diego).

For more details on the Young Chemist Award, visit its official website: youngchemistaward.metrohmusa.com