Analytical and Forensic Chemistry Division

Analytical chemistry is the science of measurements targeting the identification and quantification of the chemical and biochemical components of natural and artificial materials. Analytical chemistry therefore touches many, if not all, scientific areas.

At the same time, analytical chemistry is a field of scientific investigation and development itself. In this regard, research in Analytical Chemistry rises to meet new and even curiosity-driven challenges by improving and refining existing measurements, inventing new measurement tools and technologies.

Forensic chemists use analytical chemistry tools and technologies to analyze any possible trace evidence found at crime scenes in order to identify unknown materials and match samples to known substances. They also analyze drugs/controlled substances taken from scenes and people in order to identify and sometimes quantify these materials.

Below are current research thrusts in our Division.

Jan Halamek’s research group focuses on the development of novel sensing approaches, toxicology and environmental screening technologies for various forensic applications. The group conducts research involving the identification of personal attributes (ethnicity and gender) using bioassays for forensic applications. Most notably, the group developed a bioanalytical protocol for the determination of gender from latent fingerprints. These approaches, often combined with biomolecular engineering, are a rapidly emerging field aimed at development biology-inspired intelligent sensing systems. Our multidisciplinary research approach combines fundamental studies with forward-looking engineering efforts.

The Fabris group is interested in studying the structural biology and biophysics of non-protein coding nucleic acids involved in infectious diseases and cancer. In particular, his research program is dedicated to the elucidation of the fundamental effects of natural and man-made modifications on the 3D structure of nucleic acids and their ability to interact with small-molecule ligands (e.g., cellular metabolites and putative drug candidates), proteins (e.g., viral and host factors, nucleic acid chaperones), and other nucleic acids (e.g., cis and trans interactions with endogenous nucleic acids and putative antisense therapeutics). Supported by the development of novel approaches based on high-resolution mass spectrometry and ion mobility spectrometry mass spectrometry, his group explores the role of post-transcriptional modifications on the activity of salient viral RNAs from human immunodeficiency virus, dengue, polio, and hepatitis C, as well as non-coding RNAs involved in stress response and regulation of gene expression/transposition in yeast and human cells.

Rabi Musah's laboratory is pioneering the development of ambient ionization mass spectrometric tools to investigate: (1) plant psychotopic drugs of forensic relevance; (2) detection of genetically modified plants; (3) chemical cues emitted by plants in chemical defense or in response to stress; and (4) the unique chemical signatures that are characteristic of an organism or form of matter that enable it to be distinguished from other species. The developed methods have wide applicability in addressing important questions and problems in numerous fields including: environmental chemistry (what compounds are emitted by plants and what impact do they have on the environment and on climate?); forensics (rapid species determination of plants of abuse at crime scenes, rapid blow fly species determination for the accurate assessment of time of death/post mortem interval); plant biochemistry (mapping of the biochemical pathways associated with formation of organosulfur defense compounds in plants); botany (species identification using plant chemical signatures); agriculture (assessment of levels of desirable chemical features of cash crops); chemical ecology (determination of chemical cue-dependent relationships between plant parts and their environment, including interactions with herbivores and microbial pathogens); national defense (development of methods for the detection and identification of types of ammunition); chemical mapping (development of small molecule mass spectrometric imaging methods for determination of the molecular distribution of molecules in various matrices).

Research in the Flechsig laboratory focuses on electrochemical detection and sensor techniques and applications of these techniques. Examples of applications include ultra-trace detection of heavy metals, explosives, and drugs in environmental water and forensic samples, as well as rapid and reliable genetic testing of clinical samples for genetic defects (single base mismatches), and infectious fungi and bacteria. DNA analysis was also applied to detect traces of genetically modified maize in real flour samples. Such genetic monitoring is essential for international trade of crop. Besides electrochemical techniques, also nanotechnology (nanomotors, nanostructures, nanolayers) is used to design novel sensor principles.

Igor Lednev’s research targets the development and application of novel laser spectroscopy for biomedical research and forensic purposes. This includes new approaches for the noninvasive, early diagnostics of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.) and new methods for detection and characterization of biological stains, gunshot residues, hair and other trace evidence recovered at a crime scene. Lednev’s laboratory works in close collaboration with Albany Medical Center and NY State Police Crime Laboratories. The fundamental research is focused on the understanding of the structure and formation mechanism of amyloid fibrils, protein aggregates related to the neurodegenerative diseases.

The Wang group focuses on development of multiplex biotechnologies based on nanotechnology and microfluidics, particularly barcode array, for disease diagnostics and forensic investigation. This unique lab also aims to apply the multiplex tools and employ principles in systems biology and physics to tackle the major challenges in immunology and cancer therapeutics, and to offer new perspectives of multi-scale biosystem development. Recently this group has invented new sensors based on innovative materials and biomolecular engineering for detecting cell signaling at the nano scale.

We invite you to check the profiles of Analytical Faculty listed here. We are all engaged in cutting-edge research in analytical chemistry and forensic chemistry. We have broadly based Analytical/Forensic Chemistry programs with expertise in essentially all the modern branches of instrumental analysis, including optical spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, ion mobility spectrometry, electrochemistry, chemical separations, and microscopy. Our analytical faculty are also developing advanced sensors based on smart polymeric materials, nanotechnology, microfluidics, selective extraction, and micro- and nanoelectronics. A hallmark of our analytical program is its interdisciplinary approach to science. Students in our division have ample opportunities to collaborate with scientists in the departments of Chemistry, Biology, Physics and other research units on campus and in the Capital Region.

An education and research training in Analytical Chemistry and/or Forensic Chemistry at either M.S. or Ph.D. level leads to rewarding careers in academia, research institutions, government agencies and industries. Our Ph.D. are trained to be outstanding trouble-shooters and problems solvers. Contact any one of us: we will be delighted to answer your questions.