Former U.S. Navy forensic scientist to lecture at BSU

BEMIDJI, Minn. (Aug. 25, 2010) — To the trained forensic scientist, a single test of a single fiber can unveil volumes of history.

Most fibers, from carpets, clothing, draperies or upholstery, have received surface treatments such as stain resistance, weather proofing or permanent pressing. From a single fiber, an x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy test can distinguish those surface modifications in a manner that does not destroy the original sample. Using these tests, fibers from one location can be associated with fibers found at another location, creating a trail of associative evidence that can be used in crime scene investigations.

Robert Blackledge, who spent 17 years as senior chemist at the U.S. Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service Regional Forensic Laboratory in San Diego, a lab made famous by the CBS television series “NCIS,” will be lecturing on the use of spectroscopy to analyze fibers Friday, Sept. 17, at Bemidji State University.

Blackledge’s lecture, which is free and open to the public, is offered in conjunction with a meeting of the Red River Valley Local Section of the American Chemical Society. The lecture will be held in room 248 of Sattgast Hall on the Bemidji State campus from 7-8 p.m.

“These events are designed to involve the public,” Dr. Matthew Picklo, chair of the Red River Valley Local Section, said. “We try to find a topic that people are interested in and that supports our organization’s goal of promoting the field of chemistry.”

Robert Blackledge
Robert Blackledge has been involved with both the practice and teaching of forensic science for well over 30 years. He began his forensic science career in 1971 as a chemist in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime lab in Tallahassee. In 1977, he moved to Frankfurt, Germany, where he spent 11 years working in the U.S. Army’s crime lab that served all U.S. military forces serving in Europe. There, he honed his expertise in the analysis of trace evidence, particularly evidence related tos exual assaults. In 1989, he was named senior chemist at the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service Regional Forensic Laboratory in San Diego; he held that position until 2006.

Blackledge has published more than three dozen papers and book chapters on forensic science, and reports of his research have been published by the FBI, the “Journal of Forensic Science,” “Science & Justice” and “Forensic Science Review,” among others. He also edited the book “Forensic Analysis on the Cutting Edge: New Methods for Trace Evidence Analysis.”

Blackledge is a fellow in the criminalistics section of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists and a member of the California Association of Criminalists, Southern Association of Forensic Scientists and the American Chemical Society.

For more information, contact Dr. Drago Bilanovic, Bemidji State University professor of chemistry, at (218) 755-2801.

Sept. 17 —
7-8 p.m. — Meeting of the American Chemical Society’s Red River Vally Local Section, featuring guest speaker Bob Blackledge, former senior chemist at U.S. Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service forensics lab in San Diego. Location: Sattgast Hall, room 248; Bemidji State University campus. Admission: Lecture is free and open to the public. Information: (218) 755-2801.