How Chemistry Records the History of People and Products

By Gabriel Bowen

Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

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I know what you did last summer... and where you were and what you ate and what you drank.

When it comes to the chemistry of your body, you really are what you eat (and breathe and drink). Elements and molecules that enter your body through these pathways are locked in your breath, blood, bones, and tissues, and to the astute chemist can provide a record of the environment in which you live. My research focuses on understanding minor variations in the environmental chemistry of stable isotopes (atoms of the same element with slightly different weights) that occur naturally in different locations on Earth. These variations are reflected in the body chemistry of people, animals, and products living or produced in different locations. In this talk, I introduce natural variation in environmental isotopes and, in a practical sense, what we can do with it: from ensuring safety and protecting markets in the food industry to solving crimes.

Isotope Ratio Ecology and Hydrology (IREH)
IsoMAP: Isoscape Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction


Gabriel Bowen Gabriel Bowen is an Associate Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Purdue University, co-director of the Purdue Stable Isotope Facility, and a member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. His research exploits naturally occurring variation in the light stable isotopes to address problems in climate change research, hydrology, ecology, and forensic science using both field-based measurements and modeling.

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  • Gabriel Bowen (2010), "How Chemistry Records the History of People and Products,"

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