Robin Abel started with MBC Group as our Chief Scientist in August and has hit the ground running in the last couple of weeks, stirring up new directions for MBC Group to grow. He came from the RCMP National Forensic Laboratory Service, an overarching unit which analyzed and identified trace evidence materials. There, his favourite kind of analysis was unknown substance identification – such as identifying whether white powder sent to an individual in the mail was a threat or just sugar from an angry person’s kitchen.
Robin has extensive experience in the scientific realm. He has worked in London developing radioactive medications to assist with chronic disease research, as well as with accelerant detection canines and identifying sensitivity targets for fire debris analysis. One of Robin’s more interesting projects involved analyzing the elemental distribution in 3500-year-old mummies’ teeth to determine how close they lived to the sea and for how long. It was his work with fire investigation and ignitable liquid analysis which led him to MBC Group, through the world of fire losses. Where his previous work involved identifying criminal activity in police cases, MBC Group identifies and characterizes the same materials and analyzes what they mean at a variety of scenes. Robin has joined the company with a vision of what fire analysis could be in Canada, something that has a lot of potential for national growth. This is the first of many visions Robin sees for MBC Group’s expansion into new territory.
There is nothing Robin won’t try if it is worthwhile. Even with his three children, he loves to do experiments and engage them in learning. Fancy lab equipment can be expensive and hard to find, so he often finds ways to duplicate the processes using repurposed equipment at home. With a frame and saran material filled with water, Robin and his kids formed a huge lens to concentrate the rays of the sun. They were able to explore how hot it could get, making some glass out of sand.
Robin has a passion for finding new questions that need answering and for providing answers that other people or organizations may not be interested in providing. And MBC Group, in his eyes, is the perfect place to do that. He believes that people should keep their eyes open and look for new opportunities and new ways of doing things. For him, it is easy when you are working in an area with regulations and legislated guidelines to get locked into them and continue on a prescribed path. But what if we look at opportunities to develop and generate the next standard procedure? Is there a better way of doing things going forward, and is there a way to convince the organizations who make the standards of that methodology?
We are excited to have Robin leading the charge for MBC Group’s newest venture: Research and Development. Robin is applying his experience and finding questions that MBC Group has the opportunity to explore and answer. His current project involves automation of certain lab processes. It isn’t about taking humans out of processes but taking repetitive or time-consuming tasks and letting a computer do them for humans. In his eyes, computers are getting better and better at learning. Robin would like to teach them to see what we see when analysing a sample and doing complicated interpretation tasks, so that it can speed up the slow phases and we can then step in to analyze those results and get involved at the most interesting stages. He is enthusiastic about what is to come, and how far MBC Group can expand and diversify. We are all on our toes to see where Robin can take us, and the questions and answers that he finds along the way.