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  5. Professor Simona Francese gives TED Talk in Vancouver

Professor Simona Francese gives TED Talk in Vancouver

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Simona Francese TED talk

BMRC's analytical chemist Professor Simona Francese spoke at TED 2018 in Vancouver on 12th April about her research in fingerprint analysis.

What we need sometimes is a little awe, a little wonder. Session 7 of TED Talks 2018, entitled ‘Wow. Just wow.’, was designed to provoke an exquisite human emotion: the sense that the world is bigger and stranger than you had known.

Simona says: 'Molecules are the storytellers of who are we and what we've been up to. We just need to have the right technology to make them talk.' Through her work, she is revealing the tales to be found in the microscopic remnants that we all leave behind. A person's prints can contain three types of molecules: ordinary sweat molecules; molecules of substances that we've introduced into our bodies and sweat out; and molecules of stuff that we may contaminate our fingertips with. 

Professor Francese and her team achieve their breathtakingly detailed analyses by using solid state lasers which cause the desorption of molecules in fingerprints; mass spectrometry imaging measures the mass of those molecules and the mass tells us who those molecules are; at the same time, molecules can be visualised directly on the fingermark. 

With this technology it is possible to detect and visualise hundreds of different molecules in a single print with the potential to enable a more and more accurate identikit of the suspect as well as allowing the separation of marks when they're overlapping, something that tends to stymie the police. Their work can also fill in faint prints by improving ridge pattern continuity and clarity. In 2017, law enforcement in the UK and in other parts of Europe began using this technology in their criminal investigations.

Simona commented: 'It has been an experience like no other. Exciting, scary, intense, uplifting and humbling. Sometimes you may experience all of those emotions in one single instant! It was a very effective reminder of how small we all are but also what willpower, determination, creativity, love for life and others can push the human minds to achieve. And for me to be able to share some of the research that I am very passionate about on this platform has been simply a privilege. Wow, just wow.'

To view Simona’s talk, please click here

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