The Power List 2016
Professor and ARC Future Fellow, Centre for Forensic Science, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Passion: Developing and applying new analytical techniques to help police solve crimes. Much of my research focuses on understanding the volatile organic compounds produced by human remains and how cadaver-detection dogs can use these compounds to locate victims. Using advanced analytical instrumentation, we are gaining a better understanding of the complex decomposition odor profile and starting to identify the key VOCs that detector dogs use to search for human remains. Once we have identified these compounds, we can prepare better training aids and enhance their training protocols, ultimately increasing their chance of success when deployed to crime scenes.
Pivotal moment: Being awarded a Canada Research Chair. The award provided a foundation for me to build a strong platform in forensic analytical chemistry in Canada through intensive research, infrastructure and human resources. Ultimately, this molded my future career as a research-intensive academic and resulted in the award of an ARC Future Fellow which allowed me to return home to Australia and continue to enhance my reputation in forensic analytical chemistry.
Prediction: Within the field of forensic chemistry, I hope to see more advanced techniques such as comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography and high-resolution mass spectrometry being employed in forensic laboratories. We use such techniques in forensic research and have shown their increased capabilities and benefits, but this has not yet transitioned to routine forensic analysis, which still relies on traditional chromatography and mass spectrometry. Within the field of analytical chemistry, I think the advances will come from the range of interdisciplinary research that is now carried out incorporating chemists, biologists, statisticians, engineers and other disciplines. The opportunities are truly endless.