Alyssa Smale ’18 spent the first three years of her Lebanon Valley College academic career working on an inorganic chemistry research project in laboratories in the College’s state-of-the-art Neidig-Garber Science Center. For her senior year, Smale wanted to focus more on her future plans–forensics–a path followed by many former LVC science graduates who now work for the FBI and various state police and governmental agencies. She sought the help of Dr. Don Dahlberg, science internship director at The Valley. Dr. Dahlberg recommended she contact a professor at the University of New Haven (UNH) and a partnership between LVC and UNH soon began, which included an internship for Smale at the Connecticut university this summer.
“My internship will focus on nail polish, a type of trace evidence often found at crime scenes or on suspects,” she said. “UNH is analyzing more than 100 types of nail polish in shades of red and pink so it will be interesting research.”
When analyzing samples, no two pieces of equipment will produce the same spectra. Smale defines spectra as “graphical representations of the data collected by instruments. For example, infrared (IR) spectroscopy produces a spectrum of the amount of infrared light absorbed versus frequency, which is dependent on bond vibrations within a sample.”
Smale will use complex standardization algorithms to account for the differences. “The goal is to have instruments in laboratories across the country have the ability to detect these subtle differences between similar nail polish samples,” she said.
As she progresses in her research, Smale will be in constant contact with Dr. Brooke Kammrath, assistant professor of forensic science at UNH. She also hopes to present her findings at the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists conference in the Poconos in November.
Smale’s research at University of New Haven was made possible by a grant from the Edward H. Arnold and Jeanne Donlevy Program for Experiential Education. Arnold Grants are experiential learning grants intended to stimulate student-faculty research, independent student summer research, and independent student internships in diverse disciplines.