Prof. A.C. van Asten (1968) has been appointed professor of Forensic Analytical Chemistry and On-Scene Chemical Analysis at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Science. The chair was established on behalf of the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI).
Analytical chemistry plays a crucial role in almost all present-day forensic research, for example in criminal cases concerning the misuse of explosives or the production and trade of illicit drugs. However, chemical forensic research can also be invaluable for characterising microtraces like fragments of glass, gunshot residues or fibres from clothing, or in an investigation into the exact cause of a fire.
As part of his new chair, Arian van Asten will focus on developing methods for forensic chemical identification and for the chemical characterisation of evidence. Moreover, he will strive to develop methods, sensors and data platforms that enable rapid on-scene chemical analyses so that materials and objects can be examined immediately, for example at the crime scene. This will enable the instant generation of valuable information for the tactical investigation and for evidence selection for further analysis at the forensic laboratory. The need for a simple method that makes it possible to conduct valuable and robust chemical analysis on-scene isn’t only restricted to the field of forensic research. It is, for example, also important for security screenings at airports, for checking the contents of parcels and containers, for determining the quality and authenticity of food, and for optimising production processes in the chemical industry.
Besides carrying out research, Van Asten teaches in the field of forensic and analytical chemistry and chemical field analyses, primarily to students of the Master’s programme in Forensic Science and of the Analytical Sciences track of the Master’s programme in Chemistry. He is also the education director of the UvA’s Master’s programme in Forensic Science, which is coordinated by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies.
Van Asten has been professor by special appointment of Forensic Analytical Chemistry at the UvA since 2012. Together with Prof. Maurice Aalders, he was the driving force behind the creation of the Co van Ledden Hulsebosch Center (CLHC), the interdisciplinary center of expertise in forensic scientific and medical research in Amsterdam. Van Asten has been co-director of the CLHC since 2013. From 2006 to 2018, he was affiliated with the NFI following a career spanning more than ten years in the chemical industry. At the NFI, he held consecutive posts as head of the department of Chemistry, head of the department of Physical Technology, head of the department of Science, Interdisciplinary Research, Statistics and Knowledge Management, and as Research and Development coordinator. He was also a member of the NFI’s management team until 2016. In addition, Van Asten has coordinated various complex international case studies. As part of his chair, he will collaborate closely with the NFI and will continue to work at this respected forensic institute one day a week but now in a new role as visiting UvA scientist.