Student's Nail Polish Research Could Help Solve Crimes

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ANNVILLE, PA (05/02/2018) Media Advisory

What: Student's Nail Polish Research Could Help Solve Crimes

Who: Alyssa Smale, an ACS chemistry major from Stroudsburg, Pa., has conducted extensive research on red nail polish and partnered with researchers at the University of New Hampshire to create a database of more than 100 types to help criminologists. Watch this brief VIDEO.

Where: Lebanon Valley College

Contact: Tom Hanrahan, director of campus communications, at 717-867-6031 or to interview Alyssa Smale.


Alyssa Smale '18 spent the first three years of her Lebanon Valley College academic career working on an inorganic chemistry research project in laboratories in the College's state-of-the-art Neidig-Garber Science Center. For her senior year, Smale wanted to focus more on her future plans-forensics-a path followed by many former LVC science graduates who now work for the FBI and various state police and governmental agencies. She sought the help of Dr. Don Dahlberg, science internship director at The Valley. Dr. Dahlberg recommended she contact a professor at the University of New Haven (UNH) and a partnership between LVC and UNH soon began, which included an internship for Smale at the Connecticut university this summer.

"My internship will focus on nail polish, a type of trace evidence often found at crime scenes or on suspects," she said. "UNH is analyzing more than 100 types of nail polish in shades of red and pink so it will be interesting research."

When analyzing samples, no two pieces of equipment will produce the same spectra. Smale defines spectra as "graphical representations of the data collected by instruments. For example, infrared (IR) spectroscopy produces a spectrum of the amount of infrared light absorbed versus frequency, which is dependent on bond vibrations within a sample."

Smale will use complex standardization algorithms to account for the differences. "The goal is to have instruments in laboratories across the country have the ability to detect these subtle differences between similar nail polish samples," she said.

Smale's research at University of New Haven was made possible by a grant from the Edward H. Arnold and Jeanne Donlevy Arnold Program for Experiential Education. Arnold Grants are experiential learning grants intended to stimulate student-faculty research, independent student summer research, and independent student internships in diverse disciplines.

Lebanon Valley College is a private, coeducational college founded in 1866 and dedicated to the liberal arts. The College offers 41 undergraduate majors plus self-designed majors and a range of minors, concentrations, and pre-professional options, as well as graduate degree programs in athletic training, business administration, music education, physical therapy, science in STEM education, and speech-language pathology.

The College has 1,624 full-time undergraduate students and 118 full-time faculty. Students can choose from more than 95 clubs and organizations, and 19 study abroad programs. LVC awards generous academic scholarships to those whose high school records demonstrate a commitment to challenge and achievement. Learn more at

Annville is 15 minutes east of Hershey and 35 minutes east of Harrisburg; Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore are within two hours.