Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Chemistry Guest Speaker: Associate Professor Stewart Walker

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Stewart has worked on design, development and application of advanced analytical techniques to solve problems in analytical, environmental, industrial, forensic and medical arenas.
He gave fascinating examples of how the detection of isotopes and molecules can help solve problems, including criminal cases through to how humans have impacted the Great Barrier Reef with mercury.

He explained how he is growing his hair as part of an experiment to show that chemicals trapped in hair can indicate which part of the world a person has been to. Everyday chemicals, including those in soap, drinking water and diet can be used to place the whereabouts of a person, down to the number of days they have spent in a particular location. Analysis of Stewart's hair a few years ago accurately showed that  he had travelled from Australia, to Norway for 10 days, then onto New Orleans for 5 days,  Prague for 10 days and then finally back to Australia. This sort of technology could be used to help identify corpses after natural disasters as well tracking the movement of people around the world.

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