Dr. Paola A. Prada-Tiedemann
Title: Research Assistant Professor
Education: Postdoctoral Appointment, Office of the Director of
National Intelligence US Government Fellowship, 2010-2012;
Ph.D., Florida International University, 2010
Research Area: Forensic Analytical Chemistry
Office: 110E Lab: Building 558
Phone: (806) 834-0983 (Main); (806) 796-4937 (Laboratory)
Fax: (806) 743-7932
PRADA-TIEDEMANN RESEARCH GROUP FOCUS AREAS
Research efforts in our group are centered in the main scope of "volatolomics", specifically in the analysis of volatile organic compounds from biological as well as other forensic specimens which could yield a chemical odor profile useful for discriminatory and identification purposes. To achieve these objectives, the analytical methods implemented in our laboratory include the use of instrumentation such as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and solid phase microextraction that allow the efficient extraction and detection of target analytes with minor sample disturbance. Our particular interest is in understanding the complex odor picture available to the canine nose in the many military and law enforcement applications of working dog canine teams. Additionally, we are focusing our efforts on not only the analytical chemistry component, but also in monitoring canine response and threshold levels with concurrent canine field testing.
This is an image of a canine nose
CURRENT FORENSIC RESEARCH AREAS
Human Odor Traces
One major subject of study in our laboratory is that of forensic odorology. A young discipline in the Western hemisphere, this area of forensic science focuses on the evaluation of human odor volatiles as a biometric measurement to discriminate individuals. Using traces of odor to detect and prosecute criminals, establish connections between victim-assailants, and ultimate detection, and preservation is the fundamental reasoning for all our experimental designs. Since the beginning stages of this work, we are now in a position to further exploit a subject's odor profile and target the analysis to extract more information from an odor sample, ranging from questions stemming from disease conditions, addiction, and even geographical origin. An active component of this work is to understand how a human odor profile can yield information of controlled substance intake from addictive populations.
In collaboration with Texas Tech’s Health Sciences Center and the Rumbaugh Lab, we are utilizing solid-phase micro-extraction (SPME) and gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry (GC-MS), using an in vivo model to compare VOCs present in the chronic wound environment to those present in vitro. Individual species of microbes have specific molecular makeups, including specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are also thought to be unique to each organism. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are two of the most common chronic wound pathogens and are highly multidrug resistant.
Explosive Odor Residues
In collaboration with Texas Tech's Canine Olfaction laboratory, a current project is underway to understand how to better prepare explosive canine training aids using an olfactometer as a mechanism to prepare a range of odor mixtures. This project responds to a need within national security purposes to better train canines to the range of complex odor mixtures encountered with homemade explosive devices. This work entails a thorough analysis of odorants as well as optimized methods of collection to yield optimal training aids.
Our laboratory has partnered with Lubbock Police Department K9 unit to investigate narcotic odor as a function of time. Does the age of a training aid affect canine performance? The use of canines for drug detection is paramount for national security and law enforcement purposes. In an effort to provide scientific foundation for canine drug detection, it is vital to understand the optimal lifespan of a training aid via both instrumental and canine field testing.
Decomposition Odor Traces
Another area of study within our laboratory focuses on the study of volatile organic compounds emanating from decomposition. This section of our laboratory entails understanding VOCs from matrices such as blood, larval masses (insects), soil and related tissues using pigs as our animal model of study. The need to better estimate postmortem intervals is critical and the research in our laboratory focuses on using volatolomics as a viable source of information to target decomposition timelines in forensic investigations.
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The Department of Environmental Toxicology (ENTX) is the academic home for the core faculty of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) and the Institute for Forensic Science (IFS) at Texas Tech University. TIEHH and IFS provide faculty and graduate students opportunities for multidisciplinary research and scholarly engagement related to environmental, forensic and human health sciences.