From the 12th to the 14th of June this year, we’ll be hosting the Scientific Meeting of the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) in Cardiff. As a preview, we’ve brought together the keynote speakers from the conference for a series of exclusive interviews. This month, we’re pleased to welcome RIKILT Wageningen University researcher, Wilco Duvivier.
Wilco’s background in food technology and plasma testing led him to build broad experience with a range of testing techniques - chromatography, mass spectroscopy, and UV-VIS spectroscopy among them - before writing his PhD thesis on new hair analysis techniques using ambient mass spectrometry. Since completing this thesis in 2016, he has remained at RIKILT Wageningen University & Research, further developing the techniques he’ll be talking about in June.
Cansford Labs (CL): What are you looking forward to at the Scientific Meeting in June?
Wilco Duvivier (WD): I am looking forward to hearing about the latest developments in the field of hair forensics, especially regarding external contamination and new analysis techniques. Since I am an analytical chemist by training, it is very interesting to hear the views of other people regarding techniques and approaches.
CL: Can you tell us a little about your keynote?
WD: I hope to show that DART-MS is a very versatile technique, with many possibilities for hair testing. I will present the method’s performance both on spiked hair samples and on authentic drug user hair samples. In addition, I hope I will have some new results on the detection of more compounds to show..
CL: How accurate is DART-MS compared to other methods?
WD: The DART-MS method is suitable as a screening method, able to detect realistic levels of several illegal drugs with a two-week timeline of accuracy… but the most important advantage is the speed. Analysis of a hair sample can be performed within minutes, without extensive sample preparation.
CL: What are the biggest challenges the hair testing world faces today?
WD: As an analytical chemist, one of the biggest challenges I see is the lack of well-defined, uniform reference material. Especially for method development, well-defined reference material is very important and could help to benchmark methods which use new analytical techniques.
CL: What is it about the world of hair testing that interests you most? What encouraged you into the field?
WD: For me, the most fascinating thing about hair testing is the long detection window and being able to look back into an individual’s life. The method has so much potential - for not only for investigating drug-facilitated crimes, but also for pharmaceutical drug use monitoring.
CL: What's next in your studies?
WD: We are currently working on making DART-MS feasible for wider application in hair forensics. Next, we’ll be investigating the analysis of more compounds, including pharmaceutical drugs. We are also looking into ways to make DART-MS more sensitive for hair analysis, tackling its biggest drawback at the moment.
Thanks go to Wilco for answering our questions - and we hope he has some surprises for us at the SoHT Scientific Meeting in June. If you’re as intrigued as we are, download a registration form for the event here.
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