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In the Eyes of a Forensic Chemist - Interview with Professor Sabra Botch-Jones

13 June 2019

Professor Sabra Botch-Jones at Boston University has a long career in forensic science. She has seen the evolution of techniques for sample preparation in the constant hunt for lower detection limits. 

 

"First, we’re looking at the stability of synthetic cannabinoids in human matrices such as blood and urine, and testing them at different time points to understand how they degrade over time. The second project, where we really started getting involved with Biotage, is looking at different sample prep techniques. We’ve been working with liquid-liquid extraction, solidphase extraction as well as supported liquid extraction and conducting full method validations on each extraction technique and comparing the results."

"The biggest effect on my career was when novel psychoactive substances became more prevalent in our casework. We had to figure out what new compounds were there, with very limited knowledge of their chemical makeup. Also, watching the opioid epidemic occur and change during my career has been eye-opening. As a result, what we test for today has grown significantly, as well as how low of a limit of detection we have to reach. Who knows how many drugs we missed because we didn’t have the technology to analyze with the needed sensitivity. As the number of investigative tools increased for the detection of drugs, such as triple-quads, we can now take a more targeted approach with our improved laboratory capabilities and efficiency."

"Sample prep itself is straightforward, the development and optimization is where it is tricky. If you’re doing sample prep it can take up to an hour or even longer depending on the complexity of the approach. You have to go through all the steps, evaporate the samples, even if you have only one, and then get it ready for analysis. If you’re able to cut that in half by eliminating certain steps, that’s just amazing."

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