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Top 8 things to make the most of your MSc year

By Ruth M Morgan, on 8 November 2016

We have arrived at reading week after a busy start to the academic year, and there is still a lot of (nervous) energy in the university. So to add into the mix, here are 8 thoughts (in no particular order) for making the most of your MSc year:

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/groups/734017@N25/pool/

  1. Think before you read

Always think what the question is actually asking before reaching for the reading list. If you can work out what the question is asking, you can work out what a good answer to the question is. Then you can decide what theories, context, facts and examples you need to make a compelling argument that answers the question. That will mean you can read in a focused and strategic way – you will know when an article is going to help you answer the question, and when it is dealing with a concept or issue that is a side issue for your assignment.

 

  1. Read widely

Strategic reading is a great skill, but also make the time to read widely. An article may not be dealing with precisely the topic you are addressing for an assignment, but it is likely to have insights into related topics that build the bigger picture or offer context to the topic you are dealing with. It is also likely that it will provide a window onto methods, schools of thought, ways of presenting results and approaches for drawing inferences that will be valuable in your current, or future assignments.

 

  1. Work together

In an interdisciplinary subject, always value insights and approaches from your colleagues that come from different disciplines to you. You have an incredible resource in your cohort, contribute to it, absorb it and value it.

 

  1. Never be afraid to ask a question

If you are thinking it, it is likely that someone else is too. Asking questions is the beginning of discoveries, and not asking questions can limit your vision of a topic.

 

  1. Always ask ‘so what’

If you can answer the ‘so what’ question you have made a good and compelling case. Justifying your answer is a critical part of giving a strong answer to a question, and part of that justification is explaining why the reader should sit up and listen, why this matters.

 

  1. Plan! (your diary)

It’s not glamorous but make sure you know when (and where) your lectures are and when your assignments are due in. You will often have long deadlines for assignments, so don’t wait for the time pressure to bite, plan your work schedule, and build in time for contingencies. Also build in time for editing, formatting, the computer to glitch, the train strike…

 

  1. Plan! (your work)

At the smaller scale, always plan your essays before you start writing – a plan will make sure you have a logical and structured answer, and it will make sure that you only write the number of words you have in the word limit. Cutting large swathes of words is time consuming!

 

  1. Take every opportunity to meet people

You never know who you will meet at an event, you never know where your future will take you. Knowing people who have experience in the field and who have expertise in particular areas is one of the best ways for working out where you want to go next. There is no better way of knowing what opportunities are out there, where your skills could be applied, and what you are interested in.

The end of one chapter…and the start of a new one

By Ruth M Morgan, on 4 October 2016

I am writing from Auckland after the ANZFSS 2016 conference and its a moment to reflect. The University of Auckland held its graduation ceremonies a few days ago and it was brilliant to see so many new graduates celebrating significant achievements with their family and friends.  We won’t have our graduation ceremonies until next summer, but it has been a pleasure to have our MSc Crime and Forensic Science cohort of 2015/16 with us this year and it is both sad to see them leave UCL, but also exciting to find out where their next destination is going to be.  We hope it’s been a valuable year, and we wish each of our students every success in all their future endeavours – do keep us posted!

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UCL Graduands

As this last academic year draws to a close, we are also excited to be looking forward.  We have a new MSc cohort arriving as I write, and we hope they have a brilliant and successful year at UCL.  The MSc programme is a rigorous one, but we hope that we give our students the opportunities to learn new things, develop their ways of thinking and communicating, and above all develop that critical thinking that will ensure that forensic science grows and meets the significant challenges we are facing.

The upcoming generation has a pivotal role in shaping how forensic science develops as a field, and is enabled to contribute to the justice system all over the world. My hope is that in the months and years to come we will be seeing the contributions our graduates are making in forensic science in all the different spheres of education, policy, practice and research, and for our graduates to be among those changemakers that ask the most salient questions and develop nuanced problem solving approaches. So a very warm welcome to the 2016/17 MSc Crime and Forensic Science cohort – we are excited to be working with you this year and to seeing what the future holds!

 

UCL CFS at ANZFSS 2016

By Ruth M Morgan, on 29 September 2016

We have been in Auckland this last week, attending the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society Symposium that runs every two years. It is a real highlight in the forensic science calendar, with a diverse group of delegates and really excellent quality talks sharing current research and practice across a wide range of fields from Crime Scene Investigation, Science and Justice, Chemical criminalistics, Education and Training, Biological – casework DNA, Pathology and Forensic Medicine, Botany, Fingerprints, Anthropology and Archaeology to name but a few.

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We have had an excellent week, meeting other forensic scientists, sharing our research and hearing latest findings and approaches.  It is also an amazing opportunity to get insights into what is happening in forensic science in the rest of the world.  It has been a busy week with 19 talks from UCL researchers and 2 poster presentations, as well as meetings with colleagues and meeting new ones, but it has been an inspirational week too.  It is fantastic to see the research being carried out in this field, research that is addressing the hard questions we face, and research that is paving the way forward.

One of the aspects that was particularly interesting were the papers presented on how we develop our research culture. There was a clear call for us as a community of professionals, researchers, policy makers, and lawyers to be developing ways to ensure that we approach forensic science holistically and with an appreciation of the roots of forensic science in problem solving. The idea of recapturing the crime scene as a scientific endeavour rather than approaching it as a mechanical process is a powerful one with all that means for developing valuable research, best practice and effective policy.

Thank you to ANZFSS for a great conference and looking forward to incorporating lots of what we’ve learnt into our new research projects, and to being back in two years time with new research findings to contribute.

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ANZFSS 23rd International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences

By Mark Amaral, on 5 September 2016

The CFS group is officially in countdown mode with only 13 days to go until the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS) 23rd International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (http://www.conference.co.nz/anzfss16) being held in Auckland, New Zealand. This year, 17 of us (2 staff and 15 researchers) are delivering 6 keynote presentations, 13 presentations and 2 posters. We are excited to share our research with the wider forensic community and honoured that all the work we have done is being recognised. Stay tuned for updates about the conference as it happens.

23rd ANZFSS Symposium in Auckland

23rd ANZFSS Symposium in Auckland