Forensic Science and Weapons of Mass Destruction


Date Thursday April 5th 2007
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium

PARC Forum

Popular TV shows, such as CSI and 24/7, have brought forensics and terrorism to the forefront of public fascination. These types of programs, although factually inaccurate, heighten the curiosity of the public through glamour and glitz. In reality, forensic science is fascinating and exciting, but is well founded in rigorous scientific methodology as opposed to mood lighting and camera angles. In addition, chasing terrorists is a difficult and arduous process generally with associated tragedy, not the glamorous beautiful people fighting the bad guys.

Independent of the bright lights, cameras (and high salaries), there are government agencies and laboratories that deal with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and forensics everyday. The Forensic Science Center (FSC) at LLNL is one of those entities. The FSC is not a normal forensics laboratory doing traditional law enforcement forensics, such as DNA and GSR. The focus is on national security issues principally revolving around WMD and terrorism. The approach is to apply existing analytical methods as well as to develop new analytical methods in support of mitigation of all WMD threats. The rigor needed for traditional forensics is complicated by presence of very dangerous materials, such as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons and explosives. Developing forensics in the presence of WMD presents some very interesting challenges. This presentation will highlight some of the serious and not so serious efforts that have been distilled from these challenges.


Dr. Reynolds has been at LLNL since 1987, currently serving as Deputy Director of Science and Technology and Director of the Forensic Science Center. His has worked in chemical weapons and explosives countermeasures, sixteen years of synthetic chemistry, and several years in the petroleum industry. He has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from UC Berkeley and a doctorate from Stanford in inorganic chemistry. In 2006 he won a R&D Magazine 100 Award for inventing a pocket-sized explosives detector.

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