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MSc student contributes to Ministry of Defence explosives work

Leo Salvia, a current student of King’s College London’s Forensic Science MSc, has been working with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on explosive materials research, as part of his programme of study. 

Leo’s investigation of mass spectrometry was part of a broader programme of activity to enhance the capabilities of Dstl’s Forensic Explosives Laboratory (FEL). 

High performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry is commonly used to analyse specific explosive materials, but currently FEL does not have a method that facilitates the analysis of a wider range of possible explosives analytes. 

Leo’s work, supervised by Dr Leon Barron at King’s, focused on the conditions required to identify nineteen common organic explosives in a single chemical analysis.  Such an outcome would significantly strengthen FEL’s capability to screen forensic samples more efficiently for a wide range of explosives.

Leo said that the outcomes of his work ‘facilitated the stream-lining of detection methods currently used into one combined solution. Hopefully, this will add to the efficiency of explosives analysis at FEL.’

His project is part of ongoing research collaborations between King’s and Dstl, and discussions are now taking place on the next steps to build on his high-quality work. 

Dr Matthew Beardah, Dstl, who worked closely with Leo on his project, said: ’The ongoing work at King’s College London, of which Leo’s research is a major part, will directly feed into a step change in capability at FEL by introducing high resolution mass spectrometry to casework. We now look forward to agreeing next steps in finalising this valued research.’

The Forensic Science MSc/MRes at King’s College London is the longest running, fully-accredited programme of its type in England.  Students gain knowledge and understanding of the forensic process and of the analytical techniques used in crime investigation. Students have the opportunity to undertake research projects in forensic laboratories around the world, with Leo’s example being just one of many exciting placements available. 

Read more about the Forensic Science MSc/MRes programme at King’s College London.