Ralph Allen

Allen, Ralph O

Primary Appointment


Contact Information


Research Disciplines


Research Interests

Trace Analysis: Environmental, Archaeological, and Forensic Applications

Research Description

Trace Analysis: Environmental, Archaeological, and Forensic Applications

Professor Allen is not currently accepting graduate students.

The development of sensitive analytical methods has helped provide more detailed information about the small chemical differences between materials which seem similar but have different histories. In some cases, like geological samples, the large scale geochemical processes can give rise to subtle yet understandable differences in those elements which are present at trace levels. We have used instrumental neutron activation analysis and X-ray fluorescence to study several types of geological materials. These materials have been investigated as part of an ongoing effort to interpret the migration of trace elements during geochemical processes. In some cases, these same geological materials have been used by prehistoric humans and hence our studies have had archaeological implications.

To provide accurate trace element data on large numbers of samples, we have investigated several other analytical methods. The inductively coupled plasma emission source used to provide ions for a quadrupole mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) holds considerable promise. This method is also being used to study soil and glass samples for applicability in the forensic laboratory. Our efforts in the forensic science field are part of a continuing cooperative effort with scientists at the FBI’s research facilities. In the past, traces of explosive residues and epoxies have been analyzed to differentiate the sources of the materials. The latest forensic science efforts have been directed toward the important new area of DNA “fingerprinting.” This major forensic tool allows small amounts of genetic material to be used to match the DNA from a suspect.

Selected Publications