Homicide? Suicide? Research by a BU senior may help forensic investigators uncover important details at the scene of a violent death.
Tom Malinski, a senior chemistry major from Lake Como, recently presented forensics research at the 247th American Chemical Society national meeting in Dallas. His project began during the summer of 2013.
Working with Michael Pugh, professor of chemistry at BU, Malinski performed an investigation using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to analyze lead from gunshot residue. The goal of the project was to determine if forensic investigators could use a handheld XRF spectrometer in the field to determine the distance a bullet travels before striking the victim.
That motive can be determined by figuring out how far a shot flew, revealing details that may distinguish a suicide from a homicide. Pugh plans to continue to modify the project with future students, adding hamburger blood to the samples to mimic more realistic scenarios and expanding it to model different calibers.
Malinski is graduating in May and will be attending Texas A&M University in the fall. He calls presenting at the ACS’s undergraduate poster session “a great experience,” made possible through his involvement in BU’s chemistry department.
“I got the 2013 Summer Scholars research award,” says Malinski. The award is given through the department of chemistry and biochemistry and has been funded by the provost since 2007. “The BU Chemistry Club also supported me.”
Malinski hopes to continue researching in the chemistry field, and has moved away from forensics and toward organic chemistry. “I love what I’m doing now.”
– Nick Cellucci ’16