by Beth Ipsen, Associated Press
FAIRBANKS (AP) - A University of Alaska Fairbanks
chemistry student's senior research project is getting
some extracurricular attention.
Local law enforcement investigators are now looking
at UAF senior Laurie Martin's research on a solution
used to detect blood at crime scenes and may decide to
employ the chemical.
Fluorescine could be a replacement for another
solution, luminol, that has been used to detect
otherwise unseen blood at a crime scene.
Martin said the solution has been tested in
California and used in some cases in Great Britain,
but has yet to be accepted in many states including
Alaska. But that may change soon.
Walter McFarlane from the state crime lab said he
was encouraged by the effectiveness of fluorescein. He
and criminologist Jim Wolfe were in Fairbanks this
week teaching classes at UAF's Tanana Valley Campus
Law Enforcement Academy.
Martin demonstrated how the fluorescein works to a
class of about 30 academy students, Wolfe, McFarlane,
and local law enforcement Wednesday morning.
The fluorescein was combined with a buffer solution
then sprayed on two sets of bloody shoeprints, one
still visible and the other wiped clean. After the
fluorescein dried, hydrogen peroxide was sprayed on
Next, the room's lights were turned off and Martin
shined an ultraviolet light on the sprayed area.
"The UV light excites the chemical at a certain
wavelength that allows us to see the emitting
wavelength," Martin explained.
The previously hidden shoeprints glowed fluorescent
green as evidence.
For law enforcement, the results are the bottom
"It think it's excellent," said Fairbanks Police
Detective Tara Tippett.
After explaining the chemical makeup of the
solution, Martin listed the benefits of using the
solution over luminol.
The fluorescein works for 14 minutes, while luminol
lasts only 30 seconds. This would allow investigators
to extract more evidence from the bloody scene than
simply taking a single photograph of it.
Addtitionally, after the 14 minutes expire,
hydrogen peroxide can be reapplied for another 14
minutes of visibility without destroying the blood
Martin said other research has proven that DNA can
be extracted from the bloody spots that have been
treated with fluorescein whereas luminol destroys all
chances of collecting further evidence afterward.
Fluorescein is also nontoxic, which is one of the
reasons detectives have been using the harmful luminol
less and less, Tippett said.
The research project could very well be the ticket
to her dream job.
"I want to solve crimes," Martin said. "I want to
be the crime scene responder, track down the evidence
and bring it back and research it."
Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Ron Wall liked what he
saw during the demonstration and said he would be
willing to use fluorescein with Martin's help at
future crime scenes.
"It's one more tool. The guy with the most tools in
the tool box has the most chances to solve the crime,"
Wall said. "We're always willing to learn."
Martin has been taking classes at UAF since 1994.
She graduated with a degree in psychology with the
hopes of becoming a crime profiler, but after working
in forensics at the Eugene, Ore., police department as
part of a student exchange program, she tackled her
second major in chemistry.
With the help of chemistry Professor Cathy Cahill,
she hopes her research findings will be published, but
she would prefer to see it put to more practical
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"I'm not in it for the publication," Martin said.
"I think it's more important for crime-scene
investigators to use this."