Valparaiso University Professor Makes Keeping the Community Safe Cheaper and Easier

old black Labrador named Sophie.

May 31, 2023 – Valparaiso, Indiana – Christina Davis, Ph.D., visiting professor of chemistry, has partnered with the City of Crown Point Fire Rescue’s Todd Bennett to save the department time and money by distilling a concentrated gasoline solution to be used in training one of the department’s newest additions: a two-year old black labrador named Sophie. 

“It was really easy to do,” Professor Davis says. “You just have to extract all the ethanol, and then run a distillation until half the volume has been removed. If it saved them a lot of money it seemed like a great idea. Plus, I love dogs.”

Previous solutions had to be shipped from Maine, with expenses meeting or exceeding $480 annually due to complications with transporting hazardous material. For Professor Davis, the cost of the procedure equates to the price of 200 milliliters of gasoline (slightly less than a cup) plus the electricity needed to power a hot plate.

“It’s crazy how helpful this is going to end up being, and a huge benefit to the community,” Todd says. “Sophie will not just serve Lake County, but also Porter County and LaPorte County.”

The solution will be used to train Sophie in detecting the presence of accelerants that may have been used to start fires, whether it be in arson, homicide, the destruction of evidence, or other scenarios. 

Todd was put in contact with Professor Davis by Katy Leach, Ph.D., another chemistry instructor at Valparaiso University, whom he met while introducing Sophie to the public at the Crown Point Fire Department. According to Professor Davis, she can continue to make the solutions for as long as Sophie needs it. 

Valparaiso University Professor Makes Keeping the Community Safe Cheaper and Easier