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Careers Event

uctzmsc3 June 2016

There are a variety of career paths that you can pursue after completing one of the MSc courses in the Department of Security and Crime Science. However, choosing a career path becomes more complicated when you are unsure about what you actually want to do, or completely lost as to your future (which is mainly why I attended this careers event!).

http://www.integritystaff.com/files/2014/10/your-caree.jpg

http://www.integritystaff.com/files/2014/10/your-caree.jpg

This career’s event aimed to firstly provide an opportunity to network with former students. Secondly the event enabled us to get insight into the experiences of the alumni since completing their degree and get guidance from their experience in pursuing their chosen careers, as well as picking up some essential tips. Thirdly, it opened up our minds to considering careers we had not thought of before.

The event resembled ‘speed dating’, so we each got about 7 minutes with five former students of the department who are now working in different fields, including the Home Office, the National Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police Cyber Unit, Forensic Outreach, and business development. The alumni talked about what they do and we then got the opportunity to ask them anything we wanted. It was helpful to ask about how they came across the opportunity, what they do during their day-to-day, and what they truly think about their jobs. They all really enjoy what they do and feel that the course they completed at UCL has helped them get to where they are now. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to ask any further questions. As always, drinks and snacks were provided, which helped to break the ice!

This experience showed me that the transferable skills you gain by working in our department and networking can be used in pursuing different career paths. The event had a great mix of people, with different backgrounds and interests within crime and forensic sciences. Finally, the sky is not the limit, and this careers event really inspired me. A big thank you to all the alumni who came back!

MSc module assessment – Practices of Crime Scene Investigation and Expert Testimony

uctzreg15 April 2016

Last week, we held the first part of the assessment of our MSc students on the Practices of Crime Scene Investigation and Expert Testimony module, aka CSI. The MSc students were given a fictitious crime scenario which they used to ask additional questions and then locate and collect items of evidence at a mock crime scene. This was my first year assisting on this module as a TA and I found it a very fascinating experience. Throughout the module, the students have practicals on different areas of the crime scene investigation including, documentation, packaging, evidence recovery and contamination-minimisation procedures. These are to prepare for this final mock crime scene and to give them an idea of what to expect when approaching and examining a crime scene.

IMG_20160211_150926064_HDR

The students during their practicals

With identical training, one might expect the students to address the crime scene challenge in the same way. However, seeing the different approaches that each student takes and the different thought processes that go on has been very interesting. It is remarkable how some items of evidence or questions to ask for further information are more obvious to some people than others. It also shows that some people have a natural knack for this type of work compared to others. Next week is the second part of the assessment in which the students give evidence on their crime scene examination in a mock courtroom setting…I wonder how varied their testimonies will be?

A Forensic Science Experience

uctzmsc11 April 2016

What is forensic science? Many people would reply to that by saying something along the lines of “science as it pertains to the law”—and they are not wrong; but they are not giving the full definition of forensic science either. I was one of these people.

Before attending UCL for the Master’s degree in Crime and Forensic Science, I studied Medical Biochemistry. I went from studying the proteins and biochemical processes that make humans, humans…to a mixture of psychology, law and forensic science utilised in criminal investigations.

Getting used to this new way of thinking was the hardest aspect of this change in subject, and sometimes it still is. But it is worth it! Yes, it required that I had to catch up on a lot, from the basics to the content of the lectures (and beyond!), but I enjoyed doing it. I cannot complain about the reading; after all, it is a postgraduate degree and having no background in this area meant that I had to work twice as hard. Literally, forensic science (and food) was all I thought about. It had trapped me in an infinite loop of information—but so did proteins, so I knew I made the right choice in pursuing an additional dream!

cartooncrimelab Forensic science is a broad topic, and the CSI shows on TV only capture a small portion of what it actually entails. My advice is, if you want to go into forensic science and/or crime scene investigation, do not rely on the CSI shows to give an accurate depiction. Indeed, they are helpful as an introduction to forensic science—but just like the definition, the shows do not cover the whole arena. Undertaking a 12 month course on a given topic without a reality-check may leave you feeling disappointed; however, you get to learn about a lot of  fun and unimaginable topics by pursuing a forensic science degree. I certainly did, and I am sure you can too!

Side-note: not all of those high-tech machines you see on TV exist…but there are some really awesome ones that do—refer to a previous post on https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/forensic-sciences/cfs-seminar-series-mike-ferguson-cast/.

Practices of Crime Scene Investigation and Expert Testimony – A Review of the Module from a Current Student

uctzmsc30 March 2016

Everybody finds CSI cool, but only the people within the field understand the hard work and commitment it takes to be an investigator. This module truly showed me that you need ‘guts’ and ‘brains’ to endure the pressure of a crime investigation; it is not as luxurious as the Hollywood series make it to be, but it definitely requires passion and patience, and is glamorous in other ways.

The module begins with an introduction to CSI and its three important principles: strategy, continuity and integrity. Then, we moved onto the ‘nitty-gritty’ of exhibit documentation – everything needs to be recorded…everything! This was harder than I thought because you truly need an eye for detail, but practice makes perfect; so future students, please print those logs and make your room a mock crime scene to practice documenting items (then ask your housemates to find them)! We also learned how to package items of evidential value including DNA (from blood and saliva), fingermarks and gunshot residue (GSR).

picWith these boxes ticked, we started looking at the decisions made within a crime scene. This is where psychology comes in, and why forensic science is a multidisciplinary field. It is important to understand, and be aware of, the decision-making processes involved in crime scene investigation. To avoid any miscarriages of justice, we need to be aware of the decisions we make at this stage as they can affect the entire process (from crime scene to court).

We were also privileged to attend a whole day at the City of London Police learning about  strategy development and writing down our decisions on the decision logs while examining a mock crime scene. And last, but surely not least, we were so lucky to have a half-day of legal training with Bond Solon, an organization which provides expert witness training.

I have to say that I looked forward to this module at the beginning of each week because I knew that I would be learning something new which could be put in practice—and it was!

So, if you ask me whether I would recommend this module, I say it is definitely worth your time, brains and guts!