UNT Crime Lab processes evidence from Denton County cases

Guido Verbeck, associate professor of chemistry, has partnered with Denton County to create the county's first forensic drug lab. Housed on the UNT campus, the lab is staffed with graduate students certified to handle, test and analyze drug samples. As Denton County's population continues to grow closer to 1 million, the number of drug cases needing forensic testing also has increased. In the past, Denton County drug evidence was sent away for lab testing in Garland. The Garland lab is one of the busiest crime labs in the area, which meant test results weren't returned to the county as quickly as needed.

"With the high-tech equipment we have in the UNT Crime Lab, we will be able to analyze samples, pull drug evidence from fingerprints, and provide the services the county needs very quickly," Verbeck says.

Verbeck invented a new device, which he calls a nanomanipulator, in 2006. It allows investigators to extract and analyze chemicals on the nano-scale with mass spectrometry, getting more accurate findings and saving time and money. A small-scale version was deployed to Afghanistan last summer, allowing military investigators in the field to identify chemical signatures from explosives. This fall, he received a Department of Justice grant to create a version of the device to detect and analyze inks, paints and papers criminals use to create counterfeit documents.

The UNT Crime Lab, which became operational this spring, is working toward accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.

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