Skip to main content
Skip to main menu Skip to spotlight region Skip to secondary region Skip to UGA region Skip to Tertiary region Skip to Quaternary region Skip to unit footer


Hair Reveals what People Conceal: Biometric Traits from the Chemical Analysis of Human Hair

Prof. Glen P. Jackson
Prof. Glen P. Jackson
Chemistry Department
West Virginia University
Chemistry Building, Room 400
Analytical Seminar

This presentation reveals the profound ways in which isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) can provide information about the geographic origin and history of almost everything around us, including our fellow humans. The presentation explains the ways in which we are and are not exactly what we eat, and it explains how researchers use IRMS measurements of hair to determine the geographic origin and travel histories of animals and humans.

Building off these established capabilities, our research develops the ability to objectively classify the hair of different human donors into soft biometric grouping factors such as sex, age group and body mass index (BMI). Classification is accomplished either through the quantitation of amino acids in human hair matrix, which is comprised mainly of structural keratins, or through the precise measurement of naturally occurring stable isotopes of 13C/12C of each amino acid in the hair matrix. Our work also demonstrates that amino-acid-specific analysis of human hair can predict type II diabetes in the donors. In separate applications, the same methodology is used to link individual blowflies to their carrion (flesh) diet.

Before delving into the details of IRMS, the talk will also cover some very brief summaries of other mass-spectrometry based research endeavors in the Jackson group, including: 1) the development of innovative MS-based fragmentation methods for determining the structural composition of biomolecules like oligosaccharides, 2) the development of a new approach to mass spectral comparisons, and 3) the development of a new type of miniature, portable mass spectrometer.

Support Us

We appreciate your financial support. Your gift is important to us and helps support critical opportunities for students and faculty alike, including lectures, travel support, and any number of educational events that augment the classroom experience. Click here to learn more about giving.

Every dollar given has a direct impact upon our students and faculty.

Got More Questions?

Undergraduate inquiries: 

Registration and credit

AP Credit, Section Changes, Overrides,

Graduate inquiries:

Contact Us!

Assistant to the Department Head: Donna Spotts, 706-542-1919 

Main office phone: 706-542-1919 

Main Email:

Head of Chemistry: Prof. Jason Locklin