What Do Forensic Chemists Do?
Forensic chemistry encompasses organic and inorganic analysis, toxicology, arson investigation, and serology. Each method of analysis uses specialized techniques and instrumentation. The process may be as simple as setting up a density gradient column to compare soil samples or as complicated as using a mass spectrometer or neutron activation analysis to characterize an unknown substance. A wide array of laboratory techniques and instrumentation is used in forensic studies. This includes ultraviolet, infrared, and visible spectrophotometry; neutron activation analysis; gas chromatography and mass spectrophotometry; high pressure liquid chromatography; and atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The techniques and instrumentation chosen depend on the type of sample or substance to be examined. The fact that most samples examined are not pure substances, but are often mixed with dirt or debris, presents a major challenge to the forensic chemist. This may also be an advantage, as every subst