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5. Forensic (Analytical) Chemistry

The research theme Forensic (Analytical) Chemistry (5) is characterized by a large variety of areas of expertise and activities. Within this theme, the CLHC partners HIMS, VU and Avans Hogeschool Breda are actively collaborating with partners like TNO, the Dutch Police and the NFI. Within HIMS there are two chairs with a forensic chemic subtask (Prof. dr. ir. Peter Schoenmakers and Prof. dr. Arian van Asten). The bioanalytics group at the VU, led by prof. dr. Govert Somsen, including CLHC coordinator Dr. Isabelle Kohler, and Avans Hogelschool Breda with the forensic effort led by Dr. Ben de Rooij focus on forensic bioanalysis and forensic toxicology. Another interesting area of expertise is the forensic isotope research, an area of expertise which is available within the CLHC through the VU team of prof. dr. Gareth Davies, includingCLHC coordinator Lisette Kootker, and the IBED (Dr. J.A.J. Hans Breeuwer) and its analytical laboratory, led by Dr. Eva de Rijke.

The CLHC collaborates with TNO on the characterization of Chemical Warfare Agents (the FACING project), with the NFI and TNO on the chemical profiling, forensic intelligence and trace transfer and persistency studies of explosives (the project INHERIT funded by EU H2020 and the PARADISE project funded by NWO) and with the Trimbos Institute, NFI, Amsterdam Police and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science on the chemical analysis of drugs of abuse. Since June 2021 both HIMS and IBED have a special governmental permit to possess and conduct research involving illicit substances as listed in the Dutch drugs of abuse legislation.   


  • Forensic isotope geochemistry

    Forensic isotope geochemistry uses the isotopic compositions of multiple elements incorporated into human tissues from the environment to determine the geological or geographical region people originated from or were they spent the last years to months prior to death. This work ultimately contributes to identification of unidentified human remains. Since 2010, the VU forensic isotope provenance team, directed by Prof. Gareth Davies has develop new isotopic methods that has allowed it to work with the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), national and international police forces, and the UN on cold cases, current murders, and deceased unknown border crossers at the Mexico-US border to assist in identification.

    The focus of forensic projects is on the application of radiogenic and stable isotope systems (Sr-Pb-O-H-C-N) to gain insight into dietary and mobility patterns, and the effects of chemical pre-treatment protocols and diagenesis on the isotopic integrity of human tissues in forensic contexts. As part of the latter project, members of the group are involved in actualistic taphonomic experiments at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF) in Texas, United States. In addition, the VU forensic isotope provenance team is part of the UNDER (UK- the Netherlands Decomposition Experimental Research) group which is conducting actualistic experiments at ARISTA in Amsterdam.