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!


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!



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.


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.


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

“Mission Decipher”: Public Engagement in the Forensic Sciences

By Sian E Smith, on 21 July 2016

Last month I was lucky enough to work with a school from Birmingham, the Selly Oak Trust School on behalf of Forensic Outreach. We spent an hour and a half together learning a bit about the history of cryptography and then on to solving mysteries! They made their own enigma machines, translated coded World War II messages, and reconstructed shredded documents. We definitely had some budding cryptanalysts that day – they solved the mysteries with flying colours!

But why is science outreach and public engagement so important?

In the early 19th Century, public lectures lead to the popularisation of science. Nowadays, scientific fields, like forensic science and forensic anthropology, are popular storylines for TV shows. This is great because it opens people’s minds to the opportunities and fascinating technologies that we use. But perhaps…they are slightly exaggerated sometimes. Sadly, our days aren’t filled with witty one liners, steely stares, and dramatically removing our sunglasses (as fun as that would be).






These shows do a great job at demonstrating the real-world applications of the forensic sciences: using bones to identify who someone was and how they died, or using DNA to solve a sexual assault case for example. Science needs to be more integrated into our culture and media is a great way to do it.

Public engagement, or outreach, are great for both the audience and the researchers. Research Councils UK emphasise that engaging with a non-specialist audience can greatly improve your communication skills; this is definitely something that I have experienced as a facilitator. I feel more comfortable discussing my research at events and in finding ways to get the public engaged with the topic. It is a chance for kids and adults to get hands on experience with the tools and knowledge we use in our jobs. Along the way we also hope to inspire kids and young adults to consider the different career opportunities they can have.

For me, engaging with the public provides a guide for making my work more impactful. 3D imaging and forensic science both gain a lot of media attention, but more importantly the public have a significant stake in their success. Being able to present one of my research projects to a lay audience is a similar skill to presenting evidence for a jury.

The stake the public have in science is also our ability to understand and debate on issues impactful to our lives. For example, are you pro- or anti-stem cell research? Are you ready for self-driving cars? Scientific development relied equally on the researchers and the public. Without public interest there is no development, or funding, or support. Elizabeth Marincola described science without engagement as “like a tree falling in a forest with no one there to hear it; it may happen but no one will care.

Who are Forensic Outreach?

Forensic Outreach

I have been working with an organisation called Forensic Outreach recently. The UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences has enjoyed a long standing working relationship with them. They provide public engagement programmes, events (e.g. late evenings) and interactive apps to promote public interest in the work of major museums and city attractions. They work with national museums, charities, and local schools – you can check out some of their previous work here. The facilitators are a mix of PhD students, researchers, and practitioners; it’s a really fun way for us to bring our research and the subjects that we love to really wide audiences. They also run an online magazine with articles on current issues and a history of forensic science cases.

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