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Developing new, high-throughput and comprehensive, headspace approaches for the forensic analysis of ignitable liquids (Ref: SF20/APP/GALLIDABINO2)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr M Gallidabino  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Ignitable liquids (ILs), such as gasoline and petrol fuel, are common chemicals used in the initiation of arson attacks. Their detection and profiling from debris is, therefore, of strong interest in forensic science and could provide vital evidence to assist in criminal investigations. A range of different techniques are currently available for this purpose. Even if helpful, however, implementation of these techniques is often a compromise between various parameters (including sensitivity, selectivity, simplicity and automation) which may limit their application and throughput in a number of different situations.
This project aims to develop new, high-performant, headspace extraction approaches for the analysis of ILs, in order to provide forensic scientists with better tools to assist law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fire-related incidents. Particular focus will be placed on dynamic in-tube extraction (ITEX) coupled with gas chromatography. Previous works, indeed, have shown that this novel technique may offer enhanced performance (in terms of analytical sensitivity, comprehensiveness and rapidity) for the analysis of volatile organic compounds in a large range of different matrices. Its potential for the forensic detection and profiling of ILs and related residues will therefore be further explored throughout the project, in order to objectively assess the method’s added value compared to currently available approaches and optimise an easy-to-use solution for implementation in operational contexts. Application of the optimised method to different scenarios and for different purposes, such as transfer and persistence studies, will then also be investigated. This will allow new and fundamental knowledge about the nature of ILs to be collected, which will directly be helpful to forensic scientists for the evidential assessment of analytical findings. The expected outcome is an improvement of current protocols for ILs analysis, as well as enhanced understanding of the chemical behaviour of related residues.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed and the reasons you consider yourself suited to the project. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1st July for October start, or 1st December for March start
Start Date: October or March
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Informal enquiries to Dr Matteo Gallidabino ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

This project will be self funded – fee bands are available at . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs


Gallidabino, M., Romolo, F.S., & Weyermann, C. (2017). Time since discharge of 9 mm cartridges by headspace analysis, part 1: comprehensive optimisation and validation of a headspace sorptive extraction (HSSE) method. Forensic Science International, 272, 159-170. DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.12.029

Gallidabino, M., Romolo, F.S., & Weyermann, C. (2015). Characterization of volatile organic gunshot residues in fired handgun cartridges by headspace sorptive extraction. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 407(23), 7123-7134. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-015-8874-0

Gallidabino, M., Romolo, F.S., Bylenga, K., & Weyermann, C. (2014). Development of a novel headspace sportive extraction method to study the aging of volatile compounds in spent handgun cartridges. Analytical Chemistry, 86, 4471-4478. DOI: 10.1021/ac5004568

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