Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is a technique that works well for a wide range of applications. In this interview, Dr. Richard R. Hark, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, discusses his work with LIBS in applications such as forensic science, conflict minerals, and geochemical fingerprinting. Part II of this interview will focus on Hark's work using LIBS for emergency response to hazardous materials along with an interview with a first-responder who has been involved in that research.
Early in your career you synthesized a large number of novel ninhydrin analogs as reagents for visualizing latent fingerprints on porous surfaces. Did that research naturally lead to your interest in laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)?
How have you incorporated LIBS into your undergraduate teaching and research efforts?
Our undergraduates have been using the technique in course work and research since I acquired our first LIBS instrument in 2003. LIBS has been a topic in our sophomore analytical chemistry course as well as the subject of upper-level special topics courses over the past decade. More than 20 undergraduate students have been involved in LIBS research projects over the past 11 years, resulting in numerous conference presentations and several papers. Last fall, Juniata was the site for the first Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy for Undergraduate Research and Teaching (LIBS-URT) conference. The second LIBS-URT will be held again at Juniata October 10–11, 2014. Our goal is to promote awareness of the technique among faculty who teach and do research with undergraduate students.