Microtrace has provided microanalytical services in support of legal matters for over 25 years. We specialize in non-routine cases foreign matter identification and sourcing, product contamination, product liability investigations, and trace evidence analysis. Analyses are conducted in a purpose-built ISO 17025 accredited (A2LA Certificate 5106.01) microanalysis laboratory that combines a vast array of modern instrumentation with decades of experience and expertise in analysis, teaching, and research in fields that span chemistry, biology, geology, and materials science.
Commonly addressed questions include: unknown and foreign matter identification and sourcing, accident investigations, and high level characterization of an immense range of materials (organic, inorganic, metal and polymer, nanoparticles to bulk materials) as they fit into questions of product liability, product contamination, failure analysis, and patent infringement. Microtrace also has a worldwide reputation for supporting criminal investigations (for prosecution and defense clients) in the area of trace evidence, including hair, fibers, soil, glass, paint, tape, gunshot residue, poisons, explosives, and unknown materials, which includes analysis, reanalysis, and case reviews.
Dr. Christopher S. Palenik is a Senior Research Microscopist and the Vice President of Microtrace. Dr. Palenik is an expert in forensic trace evidence analysis as well as the related techniques of microsocopy and microanalysis. His education at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan spanned the scientific disciplines of chemistry, geology, materials science, and nuclear engineering, and culminated in a PhD. His education includes internships at the Bundeskriminalamt in Germany (the German Federal Police Crime Laboratory), the Internal Revenue Service National Forensic Laboratory, and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Through these experiences, he developed an intimate familiarity and passion for with a wide range of materials and microanalytical approaches.
Since then, Dr. Palenik has continued to expand his knowledge while applying it to a wide variety of investigations at Microtrace. His projects have ranged from capital punishment cases, military court-martials, and civil litigation to assisting clients from pharma, food, environmental, and nanotechnology industries. Through this work he has encountered a range of newsworthy cases, including a holocaust-era lamp shade allegedly made of human skin, baseball bats and balls signed by the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, and “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, materials from unlicensed cosmetic surgeries, and a wide assortment of pills, animal parts, and other miscellanea allegedly encountered during the consumption of food.
Through a rigorous application of the scientific method, Dr. Palenik applies microscopy and microchemistry to a variety of unusual problems. In doing so, he provides an elegant link among a seemingly disparate range of clients, materials, and fundamental sciences. The outcomes of these investigations have been admitted to state, federal, international, and military courts, published in peer reviewed journals, presented at meetings, and featured in media ranging from the National Geographic Channel to NBC’s Today Show. Dr. Palenik is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and serves in appointed positions on the North Carolina Forensic Science Laboratory Advisory board and the National Institute of Justice Forensic Science Standards Organization (OSAC).
Analytical Capabilities and Expertise
• Polarized Light Microscopy
• Scanning Electron Microscopy / Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy
• Infrared and Raman Microspectroscopy
• Transmission Electron Microscopy and Electron Diffraction
• Electron Backscatter Diffraction / Grain Orientation
• X-ray microfluorescence spectroscopy
• Gas Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry (liquid, SPME, pyrolysis)
• Liquid Chromatography (LCMS/UPLC/HPLC) and Thin Layer Chromatography
• Small Particle Analysis / Sample Preparation / Microtomy / Ion Milling
• Differential Scanning Calorimetry
• X-ray diffraction
• Fluorescence Microscopy
Materials Characterization Experience
• Unknown Substances
• Airborne Particulate Matter
• Art, Collectibles, Antiquities
• Blood, Semen, Saliva
• Bone and Tooth
• Botanical Particles
• Building Materials
• Char, Soot, Ash
• Colorants (Dyes and Pigments)
• Condoms and Lubricants
• Corrosion Products
• Drugs (illicit and pharama)
• Explosives and Fireworks
• Fibers (Natural and Synthetic)
• Food Contaminants
• Foreign Bodies
• Gunshot Residue
• Hair (Human and Animal)
• Insects, Rodents, Animals
• Meat Speciation
• Metal and Alloys
• Mold, Fungi, Spores, Pollen
• Off odors, Off-colors, Off-flavors
• Paint (Auto and Architectural)
• Pharmaceutical Contaminants
• Raw Materials & Ingredients
• Rubber and Elastomers
• Sand and Soil
• Volatile compounds
- Analytical Testing Labs
- Document Examination
- Evidence Analysis & Preservation
- Failure Analysis
- Firearms & Ballistics
- Ink Dating
- Paint & Coatings
- Q: Please list your professional accreditations, degrees, licenses, and certificates granted:
- A: Microtrace provides high-level microanalysis and microscopy in support of a diverse range of investigations ranging from the identification of unknown materials, to product contamination, to trace evidence analysis (hair, fibers, glass, paint, tape, polymers, gunshot residue, nanoparticles). Analyses are conducted in a purpose-built, 10,000 square foot ISO 17025 accredited laboratory (A2LA Certificate 5106.01). Microtrace is FDA registered and DEA licensed to handle controlled substances from Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V. It is also accredited for the discipline of trace evidence by the Texas Forensic Science Commission.
Dr. Christopher Palenik’s education at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan spanned the scientific disciplines of chemistry, geology, materials science, and nuclear engineering, and culminated in a PhD. He conducted internships at the Bundeskriminalamt in Germany (the German Federal Police Crime Laboratory), the Internal Revenue Service National Forensic Laboratory, and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- Q: Please list your affiliations or memberships in any professional and/or industry organizations:
- A: Microtrace staff are active members of the forensic community, holding current or post positions in the American Society of Trace Evidence Examiners, the Midwestern Association of Forensic Sciences. Four members of Microtrace have been appointed to the National Institute of Justice sponsored OSAC, which is responsible for developing US-based forensic science standards.
Dr. Christopher Palenik is appointed to the National Institute of Justice sponsored OSAC (forensic science standards development), a member of ASTM Committe E30 on Forensic Science, is appointed by the Attorney General of North Carolina to the North Carolina Forensic Advisory Board, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
- Q: Please list any teaching or speaking experience you have had, including subject matter:
- A: Microtrace staff, led by Skip Palenik, have educated thousands of students in microscopy and microanalysis. Microtrace staff routinely speak at scientific meetings, lead workshops, conduct research, and publish on topics involving microscopy and microanalysis, foreign material identification, and unknown material identification.
Dr. Chris Palenik has given invited and keynote talks around the world, including talks at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Thailand, South Korea and throughout the United States. Dr. Palenik has been featured in the media on programs ranging from the National Geographic channel to NBC’s Today show.
- Q: For what area(s) of expertise have you been retained as an expert?
- A: Microtrace provides scientific support for criminal, civil, and patent litigation in the areas of microanalysis, trace evidence, materials analysis, foreign matter identification and sourcing, product contamination analysis, and product failure determination. Clients include attorneys, crime laboratories, investigators, public defenders, and innocence projects. This includes expertise in a large range of analytical instrumentation and materials. We also assist industrial clients in a wide variety of industries including pharmaceutical, medical devices, food, semi-conductor, power/energy, manufacturing, and environmental industries.
- Q: For how many years have you worked with the legal industry as an expert?
- A: Since 1992, Microtrace staff have provided expert testimony in criminal, civil, and military cases, in the US and foreign courts. Microtrace provides its services to a wide range of clients, which includes support for civil and criminal work (split roughly equally between plaintiffs and defendants, prosecution and defense) as well as manufacturers in a wide range of industries including food, pharma, medical devices, and manufacturing.
- Q: What services do you offer? (E.g.: consulting, testing, reports, site inspections etc.)
- A: Microtrace provides analysis in its purpose-built laboratory, technical reviews of scientific results, and on site inspections to collect and preserve evidence.
References upon request.