Odile Madden

is Senior Scientist of the Modern and Contemporary Art Research Initiative at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) in Los Angeles. She leads a team of scientists and conservators in research about the technology, characterization, stability, preservation, and conservation treatment of modern materials in cultural heritage. The team currently focuses on studies of plastics and synthetic paints.

Prior to joining the GCI in 2017, Dr. Madden spent eleven years as a research materials scientist at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) where she conceived and built a cross-disciplinary modern materials research program. The Smithsonian’s Age of Plastic project brought together scientists, curators, conservators, artists and other scholars to explore the phenomenon of plastic and its impacts on 19th- to 21st-century life, culture and the environment. She continues this thinking as a Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. While at MCI she developed Raman spectroscopy as a tool for characterizing natural and synthetic polymers and their degradation. Other expertise includes the effects of laser radiation on materials, and the detection and quantification of risk posed by organic and inorganic pesticide residues on Native American cultural objects.

Dr. Madden’s education melds science and the humanities in equal measure. She earned a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Arizona with dissertation research into the detection of volatile organic pesticides by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). She holds a Master of Arts degree in the History of Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, along with an advanced certificate in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. She pursued undergraduate studies in Italian and Art History at UCLA.