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Student chemists ready for CSI

That $20 bill in your wallet probably has cocaine on it.

To prove it, Honors students in Prof. Gwen Shusterman’s fall chemistry lab at Portland State performed an advanced chemical analysis often done in crime labs.

They tested bills in denominations from $1 to $100, plus a 20-ruppee note, and found traces of cocaine on all but two bills, as well as nicotine, urea (from urine), glycerin and plasticizers.

“Crime labs do that all the time, day in and day out: Get a sample from a car, do an analysis for cocaine, and the person’s busted,” says Prof. Jim Pankow, who helped with the analysis. “In this Honors chemistry laboratory, they are carrying out work that is very advanced.”

Learn more about how PSU’s Urban Honors program provides academically intense experiences with real-world applications at