As I have now come to the end of my INTREPID PhD Research Phase, I thought I’d write a brief final blog about what I have done and achieved during these 3 years!
First off, I have nothing to do with electrowetting of fingerprint sweat anymore. In fact, I haven’t worked on that since January 2015. Instead, right at the start of my PhD I turned my focus to obtaining fingerprint evidence from post-blast crime scenes, specifically related to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), realising that there had been incredibly little research in this area of growing importance.
Throughout my INTREPID PhD I have created a new forensic technology called FINDER (Forensic Identification via Non-Destructive Evidence Retrieval), based on astrophysics, satellite and planetary exploration techniques. FINDER is able to visualise fingerprints from volume and serious crime scenes via a non-contact, non-destructive technique, preserving fingerprint evidence for additional analyses such as DNA recovery. FINDER can be used in the field for rapid crime scene examination with minimal training requirements and is currently the subject of a patent application.
Volume crimes: FINDER currently outperforms traditional fingerprint powdering techniques by more than 50%, based on an extensive worldwide study involving fingerprint examiners from Europe, North America and Australia, as well as utilising the expertise of fellow INTREPIDers, Silke and Francisco. FINDER is capable of visualising fingerprints to a standard suitable for identification on non-porous substrates, therefore able to be used as a confirmatory method on non-porous materials without the need for any physical or chemical enhancement techniques. FINDER can be used as a speculative technique on porous materials, rapidly identifying areas where fingerprint ridge detail is present, allowing for a more targeted approach using traditional enhancement techniques on porous materials – saving on time and resources.
Serious crimes: FINDER has been extensively tested for the visualisation of fingerprints from IED fragments after detonation. This is the bulk of my PhD research. Only 5 previous research attempts have explored this important area of post-blast investigation, with the general view in forensic science being that fingerprints cannot survive bomb blasts. I have employed the most extensive study to be conducted in post-blast fingerprint visualisation, undertaking over 25 realistic IED scenarios in collaboration with the FBI, ATF and US Law Enforcement. At present, FINDER has an unprecedented success rate, visualising 57% of fingerprints from post-blast IED fragments and debris. No single technique previously visualised more than 2% of fingerprints post-blast.
To date, I have presented or published my research in the following forms:
Keynote Presentations at International Conference Proceedings: 2
Oral Presentations at International Conference Proceedings: 7
Poster Presentations at International Conference Proceedings: 10
Journal Publications: 1 (under review)
Moving on, as mentioned in a previous blog entry, I have applied for a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Global Fellowship, the result of which I will find out at the end of January. This will allow me to further develop FINDER for additional forensic applications, including investigating the ability for FINDER to confirm blood, semen, explosives, explosive residues and drugs via a non-contact, non-destructive method. If successful, FINDER will be the first technology or technique capable of doing this.