William & Mary

Headed for the Netherlands

  • Shelle Butler MS '18
    Shelle Butler MS '18  is standing in front of the Muscarelle Museum of Art’s painting, Miracle of the Slave by Paul Cézanne, featured in the Art and Science of Connoisseurship exhibition (February 11 - August 13, 2017)  
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The Chemistry Department is delighted to announce that Shelle Butler (M.S. candidate ’18) has been selected to participate in the International Research Experience program (NSF IRES): Cultural Heritage Research in the Netherlands. Shelle is one of four US-based graduate students who will be at the Ateliergebouw, a core facility that brings together the University of Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, the scientific research arm of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, the Delft University of Technology, and the Netherlands Forensic Institute, for eight weeks in the summer of 2017. In addition to the Dutch expert mentors from these institutions, Shelle will also collaborate with scientists at major U.S. museums such as The Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Shelle’s summer research project will examine the use of red lake pigments in Rembrandt’s painting using surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) spectroscopy.

The SERS technique utilizes nanoparticles made from noble metals, such as silver and gold, which act as amplifiers to enhance the chemical signatures when applied to trace samples. The samples are carefully extracted from paintings by art conservators. Laser excitation of the nanoparticle coated sample brings to light the chemical fingerprint of the painter’s pigment, binding media, and substrates. SERS is crucial in revealing chemical changes over long time periods. It provides new understanding of the artist’s original vision so it may be preserved for generations to come.

Shelle is a graduate with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University with degrees in Chemistry and Forensic Science. She is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society and a veteran of the United States Air Force. She has given presentations of her undergraduate research in the forensic science of e-cigarettes at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists.