NCFS DARTs for Fast Forensics

Forensic scientists, scholars and students gathered at UCF’s National Center for Forensic Science (NCFS) for ‘DART Day’ on Friday, August 5.

Direct analysis in real time – mass spectrometry, or DART-MS is an instrument that can analyze or screen any unknown gas, liquid, or solid sample within 5-10 seconds.

NCFS and UCF Chemistry Professor Candice Bridge, Ph.D., organized the event to showcase this instrument’s convenience of use and potential manners implementation into a forensic science laboratory.

Candice DART Day

“I wanted to present this to the local forensic science community to educate them on this instrument and show them how it can be implemented into their case work process, with an effort towards reducing turnaround time,” said Dr. Bridge. “I also wanted to develop a direct relationship with them to let them know that NCFS is a resource for them.”

NCFS is a research center at the University of Central Florida with an 18 year history of research and partnership with the forensic science community. Dr. Bridge hoped that this event not only informs them on the innovative instrument, but also continued the development of NCFS’s strong ties with the local forensic science community.

DART can rapidly analyze a variety of samples, including narcotics, fingerprint residues, explosives, inks, and lubricants, which NCFS has primarily centered its degradation and microbial research on. Nine years since its inception, the instrument’s implementation is still relatively new to the forensic science field.

DART machine up close

“This instrument has gained significant interest in the forensic community, primarily in the drug community,” explained Dr. Bridge. “[Analysts] don’t have to do colorimetric tests or do any sample preparation, which could take anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Then to analyze the sample on an instrument could add another 30 minutes to the process. DART-MS cuts down all of that time from about an hour to five seconds, at least.”

The DART Day event consisted of lectures from guest speakers, presentations of research conducted by Dr. Bridge and her students, as well as hands on demos that demonstrated the user friendliness of the instrument.

Among the most prominent speakers were DART-MS inventor, Robert “Chip” Cody, Ph.D., and National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Research Chemist Edward Sisco, Ph.D., who discussed the instrumentation, potential modifications of DART and how adaptable it is to a laboratory.

“The purpose of DART day was to demonstrate to the local forensic science community how DART could be implemented into the crime lab,” said Dr. Bridge.  “We are hoping that we can do enough validation and research that it can be its own stand-alone analysis, comparable to a GCMS (gas chromatography and mass spectrometry).  At this point is a really great screening tool and we want to share it with the [forensic science] community and to show that we are a good resource for them to use.”

To view more photos from the event, click here

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