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Get to know your speakers: Dr. Arpad Vass

May 1, 2012

TEDxYYC 2012 is approaching at breakneck speed, and we thought it was about time you got a little more acquainted with your speakers before May 25th.

Dr. Arpad Vass is a senior research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In addition to being on an Antarctic dive team in the 1980s, authoring over 60 publications and developing 17 patents, he is an instructor at the National Forensic Academy and has assisted law enforcement on numerous homicide investigations.

His current work centres on developing new technology to help locate clandestine graves through the use of decomposition odor analysis at a facility known as The Body Farm. Research carried out by Dr. Arpad Vass and colleagues at the Body Farm has shown how bacterial action on a corpse could be used as somewhat of a forensic clock. As a body decays, a succession of different bacteria consume it. Different species have different variables and requirements. A certain bacterial species may have no use for a fresh corpse, but in two weeks, or two months time, the conditions may be right. Bacteria, like all other living things, excrete waste products to the environment. In the case of bacteria feeding on a corpse, this means that analysis of the surrounding soil can be revealing, and potentially create a timeline for researchers.

The first of it’s kind, the 1.3 acre facility allows for research to quantify how bodies interact with the environment as they decompose under various conditions relevant to criminal investigation. In the summer of 2011, decomposition odor analysis was in the news as Dr. Vass testified in the highly publicized Casey Anthony trial.

We can’t wait  to welcome Dr. Vass to Calgary. It’s an honour to have him on our list of speakers, and we know his talk will be unforgettable.

Read more on decomposition odor analysis here, and learn more about how it played a role in the Casey Anthony trial here.

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