All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Curt E Harper

Advisory Committee Members

Elizabeth A Gardner

Gregory J Szulczewski

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name by School

Master of Science in Forensic Science (MSFS) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Reducing backlogs, improving case turnaround times, and streamlining methodologies are major focus points for forensic toxicology laboratories. In order to reduce expenses and save time, some laboratories have implemented protocols that limit their scope of testing for driving under the influence (DUI) cases. However, this approach will not only provide less information toward DUI investigations but also limit the data available to fully capture the drugged-driving problem in the United States and inhibit offenders from receiving rehabilitation. This research project explored the impact of incorporating fully automated methods into the forensic toxicology laboratory as a solution to saving money and time while maintaining a full scope of analysis. Lean Six Sigma is a methodology for process improvement that involves removing waste and reducing variation. Using a Lean Six Sigma approach, cost-analyses of various assays performed at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS) were evaluated to identify major cost contributors. The results evinced that maximizing batch sizes and minimizing analyst time are necessary to reduce assay costs. The following cost benefit analyses were performed: (i) blood drug screening methods using the Tecan Evo 75 (semi-automated) versus Randox Evidence Analyzer (fully automated), (ii) oral fluid drug confirmation methods using Dispersive Pipette Extraction on the Integra Viaflow 96 (semi-automated) versus Hamilton STARlet (fully automated), and (iii) opioid quantitation methods using traditional solid phase extractions (SPE) (manual) versus Thermo Scientific SOLAμ SPE well plates on Hamilton STARlet (fully automated) and Agilent Captiva well plates on Hamilton STARlet (fully automated). The cost benefit analyses demonstrated that converting methods to full automation allows toxicology laboratories to achieve lower assay costs with larger maximum batch sizes and less analyst time required. Subsequently, future candidates for automation transition at the ADFS were also identified. The reduction of analyst time in the laboratory with fully automated methods not only provides cost benefits but also time benefits by allowing the scientists to focus on other aspects of their duties including method development and validation. As a result, the money and analyst time saved by fully automated methods negate the reasons for reducing the scope of analysis for DUI cases.

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