Win Cowger, PhD bio photo

Win Cowger, PhD

I am an Environmental Scientist that studies pollution to find solutions.

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Open Spectroscopy



Spectroscopy is one of the most important scientific techniques for forensic investigation of unknown materials. In plastic pollution research we need to identify the type of plastic that we find to better understand their fate and toxicity and validate our extraction methods. We use spectroscopy all the time. The best tools on the market for identifying unknown spectra cost $10,000+ and I didn’t have the funding to purchase them. So I spent a few weeks developing a spectral identification tool, made it open access, and named it “Open Specy”. Now it is used by hundreds of scientists around the world.


  1. Improve access to spectral analysis tools.
  2. Advance the accuracy of spectral analysis.
  3. Make spectral analysis simpler without decreasing accuracy.

Major Learnings

  1. Spectral databases need to have data targeted to the challenge, we can’t just use pure polymers for analyzing weathered plastic in the environment.
  2. The gold standard of spectral analysis is still “expert opinion”, this needs to change.

Highlighted Achievements

  • The Open Specy website is LIVE
  • We published the Open Specy Manuscript in Analytical Chemistry
  • We published a review on processing and classification techniques for images and spectra in microplastics research in Applied Spectroscopy
  • We published a second review on the hardware involved in collecting microplastic spectra in Applied Spectroscopy

Partners (not comprehensive)