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Clarkson University Scientist's Research Aids Emergency Decision-Making

Sometimes, you just need an immediate yes-or-no answer. The good news is that a team headed by Evgeny Katz of Clarkson University is researching a method of analyzing biochemical information that will quickly provide the facts necessary to make crucial decisions, particularly in military or medical emergencies.

Evgeny KatzKatz outlines this “novel sensor system that simultaneously analyzes several biochemical signals to produce a rapid YES/NO output” in the March 26 edition of SPIE Newsroom.

“Ordinarily, a sensor measures the concentration of certain molecules, for example, glucose. This quantitative measure allows a professional to make conclusions based on the  numbers,” he explains. “The problem is, this process is not good for immediate decisions and actions, like you would need on the battlefield. If you need to know whether someone has been exposed to chemical weapons, you don't have the time for a lengthy analysis with details.”

Katz, who came to Clarkson in 2006, is the Milton Kerker Chaired Professor of Colloid Science and has been identified by Thomson Reuters as one of the world's top 100 chemists. He and many collaborators are working on many projects in his Laboratory of Bioelectronics and Bionanotechnology. While this one is funded by the Department of Defense, it has obvious applications for the military but it also can be useful in more routine situations. Forensic science is one of them.

“DNA analysis is much more thorough, but by using our approach you can make preliminary conclusions about gender or ethnic background in minutes,” Katz notes. “This gives an idea of who to look for when you need to know in a hurry.”

While this new form of analysis offers rapid answers, the research behind it is not speedy. This project is a spinoff from a very general area of biosensors, in which he has been for more than 40 years, he says. He and his colleagues have devoted five to seven years on this project, supported by NSF grants and the Department of Defense.

“We are probably the most advanced group studying this anywhere,” Katz says. “We develop a general understanding of concepts, but we cannot come immediately to practical applications. A company would take it on.”

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

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