[3/3/20] – Researchers Discover a Way to Measure the Age of Fingerprints

Researchers at Iowa State University have made a scientific breakthrough that could one day help crime scene investigators measure the age of fingerprints. The research group was comprised of Dr. Young-Jin Lee, a professor of chemistry in the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Paige Hinners, a former graduate student, and Madison Thomas, a former undergraduate student. According to news sources, Hinners spent years studying fingerprints and how long they had been deposited in certain spots. The group used a mass spectrometry imaging technique to track the levels of triacylglycerol’s in the fingerprints. They found that the unsaturated fatty oils in the fingerprints were disappearing from their measurements. This breakthrough finding illustrated that fingerprints that were older had less fat than those that were newer; meaning that fresh fingerprints have more fat. Their technique also allowed them to measure the number of days since a fingerprint was left behind. Their finding was part of a study that was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice as a proof-of-concept project that only used fingerprints from three different individuals. However, now that concept has been proven, a new grant from the National Institute of Justice will allow researchers to continue the study. Hinners, who now works as a chemist at Renewable Energy Group, Inc. serves as a resource to the research group headed by Dr. Lee.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.

The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Researchers Discover a Way to Measure the Age of Fingerprints



  • Writing: Explain the importance of the research group’s discovery.
  • Debate: The technique used to determine the age of fingerprints should be implemented as soon as possible.
  • Poll: Do you believe that determining the age of a fingerprint will be considered an effective and efficient crime fighting tool?
  • Short Answer: What technique was used by the research group and was it precise?

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