NIST Research Chemist Named 'Sammies' Finalist

May 18, 2021 — The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently announced that Research Chemist Edward Sisco, PhD, has been named a finalist in the Emerging Leaders category of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (a.k.a. "the Sammies" — known as the "Oscars" of government service).

According to the Sammies website, Sisco "devised a new method for crime laboratories to identify opioids and other drugs more quickly and safely, providing critical information to law enforcement while protecting lab employees from dangerous substances."

The technique, Thermal Desorption Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry, or TD-DART-MS, involves sampling packages containing unknown substances and then analyzing the wipe, all without actually opening the containers. By testing just a tiny trace amount, forensic chemists are able to identify potentially dangerous drugs like fentanyl more quickly and much more safely.

“We believe this technology has the opportunity to be a powerful tool that will be able to differentiate many samples very quickly and affirmatively identify them,” said Luther Schaeffer, a scientist with the Department of Homeland Security in an article on the Sammies website. “Ed is changing the landscape and has developed something that will be usable and accessible.”

NIST has posted a Q&A with Sisco on their website, providing some insight into Sisco's motivations, challenges he perceives in the forensic field, and the importance of collaboration in developing new techniques and technology.

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Item of Interest

The language barrier between English-speaking investigators and Spanish-speaking witnesses is a growing problem. (Updated 28 February 2011)