Trace Evidence

The Trace Evidence Section of the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory identifies and compares specific types of trace materials that transfer during the commission of a crime. These trace materials include human hair, animal hair, textile fibers, glass, paint, gunshot residue, and fire debris.

The Trace Evidence Section at the MSFL uses a wide array of analytical instrumentation to conduct scientific analyses on items of trace evidence. This instrumentation includes the following:  Scanning Electron Microscopes, Polarized Light Microscopes, Fourier Transform Infrared Microscopes, Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometers, and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectrometers. The scientists working in the Trace Evidence Section are required to have a physical science degree with a minimum of 24 hours of chemistry courses. It takes years of training for a trace evidence examiner to be proficient in conducting all the testing services offered by the MSFL Trace Evidence Section.

The physical contact between a suspect and a victim can result in the transfer of trace materials.  These trace materials can then be collected and preserved for future analyses.  The identification and comparison of these materials can often associate a suspect to a crime scene or with another individual.  Due to the nature of Trace Evidence, the examinations conducted can be tedious and require significant amounts of time. However, these examinations are usually vital to most criminal investigations.