Forensic Investigation Student Presents Research in Canada

In April, MSci Forensic Investigation student, Gareth Griffiths, and MSci Forensic Science student, Kirstin Gent, funded their own research trip to Canada. This week, Gareth returned to present his research.

Gareth’s research, that he presented on Thursday 5th October in Ottawa, involved validating software for Faro and also enabled Gareth to collect data for his final year project on Blood Pattern Analysis, using Faro Zone 3D on different types of wallpaper.

 

He will also be helping out with a workshop about BPA with Faro Zone 3D.

Congratulations Gareth!

Funded PhD Project Opportunity

Recovery and profiling of encapsulated DNA from Counterfeit Banknotes

This is a funded PhD project with a tax-free bursary of £14,000 pa and includes tuition fees and bench fees. This is funded by the European Central Bank.

The aim of this project is to evaluate the viability of obtaining DNA profiles from DNA encapsulated between holographic patches and substrate on counterfeit euro banknotes. The project will also consider the recovery and profiling of DNA from between two layers of substrate, in cases where counterfeits have been composed of two bonded layers of paper.
The project will commence by seeking to understand the dynamics of DNA transfer and persistency on an adhesive surface. In other words, how much DNA might actually transfer on to the adhesive bearing substrate (foil patch or paper) – given that being ‘encapsulated’ any DNA present is likely to be insulated from contamination and have originated in the place of production.
A major part of this project is developing an effective recovery method – that can maximise the amount of DNA recovered from within the adhesive (a challenge in its own right) without picking up any material that may be present on the non-adhesive side – which potentially could have originated anywhere.

We are looking for someone with a forensic science qualification and experience of DNA profiling techniques. Some travel will be required as part of this project.

For further information, please contact Dr Graham Williams (graham.williams@staffs.ac.uk).

If you wish to apply for this PhD, please email your CV and a brief covering letter to Dr Graham Williams by 10th October 2018

#StaffsPGR Conference 2018

Yesterday saw the annual Staffordshire University Postgraduate Research Conference.The conference provides the opportunity for current PhD students to present their research.

The day started with refreshments, then the conference was opened by Prof. Douglas Burnham and  Prof. Martin Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, gave the introductory, welcome speech.

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Martin Jones, Prof. Douglas Burnham and Prof. Martin Parker.

 

The Key note speaker was Prof. Martin Parker from the University of Bristol, who focused his speech on ‘Everything you wanted to know about rejection but were afraid to ask’. He gave some advice to fellow researchers about not being afraid of rejection.

 

 

 

After a quick break for refreshments, the first session of the presentations began from students in Business, Education, Health and Forensics subject areas.

Sophie Hartless presenting her research on the ‘critical Evaluation of DNA Recovery Methods for Forensic Purposes’.

Megan Needham presenting her research on ‘Establishing Effective Documentation Strategies for Fingerprint Examinations’

Laura Wilkinson presenting her research: ‘An Investigation into the Interpretation of Hair Evidence for Casework’.

Lunch was at 1pm with a Poster Presentation Exhibition, followed by the second presentation session for students in Applied Technology and Humanities.

Alexia Rothwell talks through her research: ‘Multidisciplinary Intervention Strategies in Firearms Trafficking’.

Esme Hookway with her poster on her research: ‘Troubled Times: An Investigation of Medieval Hospitals as Places of Refuge for Pregnant Women and Children’ (supervised by Dr Kirsty Squires and Prof. John Casella).

The afternoon continued with a Panel Discussion – ‘What can you do with a PhD’? – followed by a Three Minute Thesis Competition, with presenters Danial Jovanovska, Ramy Hammady, Rohit Adhikari and Hussain al-Ezee. The day concluded at 5pm with closing remarks.

Panel Discussion: What Can You Do With a PhD?

Congratulations to everyone who presented their research at the Staffordshire University Postgraduate Research Conference 2018 #StaffsPGR

 

International Forensic Success

MSci Forensic Investigation student, Gareth Griffiths, and MSci Forensic Science student, Kirstin Gent, funded their own research trip to Canada at the end of April, spanning over three weeks. 

 

Gareth’s research involved validating software for Faro and also enabled Gareth to collect data for his final year project on Blood Pattern Analysis, using Faro Zone 3D on different types of wallpaper.

 

 

 

Gareth has said he would “like to say a big, big thank you to Eugene Liscio for giving us the best 3 weeks, [Kirstin and I] will never forget: taking us to Niagara Falls, meeting amazing people in the field of policing/forensics, [and] taking us to York Regional Police Head Quarters to help with Kirstin’s project and being able to shoot a gun for the first time!

“Most of all demonstrating to me the Faro scanner and Software and collecting the data for my final year project on blood pattern analysis using Faro zone 3D on different types of wallpaper.

“We are so honoured to have been given this opportunity and we will never forget the time here, in such a great country. We have never met anyone so enthusiastic about their profession. Once again Eugene Liscio, thank you for everything. You are always welcome to England anytime.”

 

CLA+ Sessions and Learning Gain

As part of a national project funded by HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) there is an opportunity to take part in sessions completing an online test which will help you to discover your skill level and could assist you in identifying areas for development. The feedback can then be used to create a personalised development plan you can follow to help you work on any areas that you feel would be beneficial to you in the future.

In return for completing the test you will receive £40*

The Collegiate Learning Assessment is a standardised online test that is used to assess certain skills that you may possess. No subject specific knowledge is required or tested and it will not impact upon your degree marks (apart from giving you the opportunity to improve following reflection of the feedback you receive). The test will provide an objective assessment about the critical skills you have at the current time. The test is open to any undergraduate student studying any subject at any level.

The test takes 90 minutes to complete and results are returned in four to six weeks. Once you have your results you can meet with your personal tutor or an Academic Skills Tutor to identify your strengths and areas for development, and draw up your own personalised plan for development.

Once you have completed the test there is an opportunity to complete a 30 minute survey on learning engagement.
(*The £40 has to be claimed through Unitemps – Unitemps will complete an ID check and accepted forms of ID will be required . This check will have to be completed before payment. More details on how to do this will be provided in the sessions)

The sessions available are as follows

There is no need to book, just turn up to the session that is best for you.
Please arrive promptly as sessions are timed and allow 2 HOURS for the session

If you would like anymore information contact Stacey.Stanyer@staffs.ac.uk

Law Alumni Present Research Findings at HMP Stafford

Lecturer Tawney Bennett and Alumnus Amber Mapledoram presented their research findings to senior management at HMP Stafford on the 25th April.

Lecturer, Tawney Bennett (left) and Amber Mapledoram (right)

Their research consisted of an empirical and largely qualitative analysis of the prisoner complaints system, through distributing questionnaires and carrying out in-depth interviews with prisoners.

The researchers conducted their investigation through a prisoner-oriented lens, focusing on the prisoners’ perceptions, experiences and feelings regarding the complaints process.

Alumnus Amber Mapledoram

Their research spanned approximately 10 months and resulted in practical recommendations being proposed to senior management, to implement into the future practice of the prison and promote positive change. The suggested implementations were created with an emphasis on the importance of procedural justice and treating prisoners with fairness and respect.

The recommendations were well received by the prison management team and they expressed a keen desire to maintain the blossoming partnership with Staffordshire University.

Alumnus and Lecturer Tawney Bennett

Future research projects have been organised with the Deputy Governor of HMP Stafford, offering Staffordshire University students an insightful and invaluable opportunity to implement change in the Criminal Justice System.

Forensic and Crime Science Society Hosts Student-Led Conference

On the 21st March 2018, the Forensic and Crime Science Society organised and hosted a Student Led Conference. The aim of the conference was to promote and encourage students to showcase their own research and to develop their skills, whilst inspiring other students to do the same.

The event was formally opened with a welcome talk by Dr Sean Curley, Dean for the School of Law, Policing and Forensics. Dr Curley greeted the students and their student colleagues; also in attendance at the conference were representatives from the staff of Staffordshire University, as well as invited guests and experts.

Dr Sean Curley, Dean of the School of Law, Policing and Forensics, opened the event

After the first round of presentations by students and guest speakers, a special lunch and poster presentation was provided. This gave further opportunities for everyone involved in the conference to discuss the presentations and to provide a vital networking opportunity for the student and staff in attendance.

Dominic Davis- Foster: developing a system for identifying the brand of ammunition from gun-shot residue.

Kurstie Burgess, a past student, gave her talk on crime scene reconstruction and shared some employability advice.

Sophena’s research examines how individuals view injury maps in court and explores a move to an interactive viewing format, using participants.

Nadine’s final year research focuses on extracting data from Fitbit devices for use as evidence in forensic investigation. It also features in the Journal of the Crime Sciences – CSEye.

Alice presented her research on using images to develop a method using RGB values for identification & quantify fibres.

Lauren presented her research on disarticulated remains.

Well done to all of the students involved and a huge thank you to our guest speakers and visitors who attended.

Partial Scholarships PhD Scheme

The School of Law Policing and Forensics at Staffordshire University are inviting expressions of interest to apply for Partial Scholarship PhD projects within our school. This scheme gives you the opportunity to enrol on to a PhD project without having to pay any tuition fees. In exchange for this, you would be expected to provide a maximum of 250 hours of teaching support to the Academic Staff. Please note, that no bursary or any other funding will be provided. These projects are only available full-time and you will need to be based on the Stoke Campus.

If you have any further questions regarding the scheme, please contact Dr Graham Williams at graham.williams@staffs.ac.uk

To apply, in the first instance contact the relevant supervisor for your interested project with your CV. The deadline for your expression of interest is the 25th May 2018 at 5pm. If shortlisted, you will then be invited to interview.

1. Law
Supervisor: Dr Sean Curley (sean.curley@staffs.ac.uk)

An examination of the exercise of judicial discretion in the 20th century and the rise of the purposive approach to interpretation.

It is generally accepted that judges are entitled to exercise discretion where existing law does not provide a precise answer to the issue that arises for determination in any particular case. The question for examination is the exploration of what Oliver Wendell Holmes described as the interstitial spaces between the law. Southern Pacific co. v Jenson (1917) 244.U.S. 205. These gaps are smaller than obvious lacunae (cf The non liquat jurisdiction in international law) and indeed may not at first glance be obvious. The examination is twofold. In the first instance, how do judges identify these interstitial spaces and then having identified them how do they then exploit them. This will then lead on to an examination of the legitimacy of the exercise. Again this is twofold is the identification of the gap in which to exercise discretion legitimate and then having answered that question, is the exercise of discretion thus enabled, legitimate. The concept of legitimacy is vital as it is only those decisions which are legitimate which can constitute valid law which will then be followed by subsequent judges. The concept of legitimacy is inextricably bound in with the exercise of discretion. It matters not if a judge creates the space in an entirely legitimate fashion if he does not then exercise his discretion in such a way as to arrive at a valid decision. Discretion is inevitably based on a judges own moral compass and his own views. When the law has no answer a judge must fall back on his or her own resources. The area of study would look at how the exercise of discretion has changed over the time in question and then look to the influences and experiences that are acting on the judiciary during this time frame.

2. Forensic Science

Supervisor: Dr Claire Gwinnett (c.gwinnett@staffs.ac.uk)

Particulate Evidence Persistence in Water Environments
The persistence of evidence in different environments is important in ascertaining when two people or items have come in contact; this provides intelligence information and aids in the reconstruction of crime scenes. Persistence information of certain evidence types, such as fibres, is commonly used in serious crimes as DNA is generally unable to provide answers to ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ a crime took place. The persistence of particulate evidence in water environments has been little studied. Due to this, many scenes of crime officers do not search for this type of evidence if believed to have been exposed for more than 7 days, although initial pilot studies conducted at Staffordshire University indicate that fibres evidence can persist on fabric for over 12 weeks. This PhD will investigate the factors that affect the persistence of fibres, pollen and glass when submerged in different water environments, including but not limited to; donor material, recipient items, exposure time and flow rate. In addition to this, the degradation of certain evidence types in these environments can provide valuable information regarding exposure time which benefits both criminal investigations and environmental science. Currently, the rate at which synthetic fibres degrade in water is not known. This PhD will also investigate the degradation of fibres when exposed to both fresh and salt water environments to aid the interpretation of microplastics in water environments and forensic fibres analysis. The duality of this PhD means that will have impact in both forensic science and the science of plastic pollution.

3. Policing

Supervisor: Dr Lauren Metcalfe (lauren.metcalfe@staffs.ac.uk)

Examining Child Sexual Exploitation in Staffordshire

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse: “An individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator” (College of Policing, 2017). Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) has been brought to the forefront of the public’s mind in recent years with many high profile cases being publicised in the media. Coupled with the impact of this type of activity, not only on the victim, but families and communities, it is a priority area for police forces and local authorities around the country. Whilst the crime has remained, on the whole, a hidden activity, much has been learnt about the factors considered to put children more at risk. That said, gaps in knowledge still exist with less known about boys and young men becoming victims; offending pathways of perpetrators of these types of offences; and local nuances surrounding characteristics, risk factors and modus operandi. Given the emphasis placed on local authorities and police forces to prevent such crimes from occurring and the recent austerity measures meaning that agencies have to work more efficiently, this research project aims to deliver better understanding surrounding CSE in Staffordshire by utilising police and multi-agency data.

4. Policing

Supervisor: Dr Lauren Metcalfe (lauren.metcalfe@staffs.ac.uk)

Modern Slavery in Staffordshire: Assessing the Risks and Aiding Prevention

The MoRiLE process which assists police forces to understand the range of threats and risks facing the public identified that crimes against the vulnerable presented some of the greatest risk to the safety of people across Staffordshire. These crimes include modern-day slavery. A recent HMIC (changed to HMICFRS) inspection report focusing on Crime Data Integrity has also shown that whilst Staffordshire Constabulary have a good basic knowledge of modern slavery offences, their understanding is limited and they accepted that more work is needed both nationally and regionally to better understand the issues of modern slavery in order to improve the policing response to the issue. Nonetheless, the force is reported as being increasingly aware of the potential for this type of crime and had the highest rate in England and Wales for referral to the NCA for modern slavery. Given this, the proposed project seeks to aid improved understanding and development of risk factors associated with modern slavery through utilisation of police and partner agency data. The hope is that this project will act as an evidence base for the police and their partners to aid in the early identification of such crimes and implement more specific early interventions to better police the issue.

5. Sociology/Criminology

Supervisor: Dr Emma Temple-Malt (emma.temple-malt@staffs.ac.uk)

Building resilient and Healthy Family Practices, Protecting Children and Reducing Crime: Identifying Support Needs and Early Interventions – A Multi-Agency Approach

The proposed PhD project will focus on the support needs of families where domestic abuse is connected with parental-substances misuse (Featherstone et al. 2014, Axford et al. 2017). The aim being to develop a multi-agency model that intervenes in such families early, to support members to build resilience, reduce domestic abuse offending and substance misuse issues, which thus far, is an under researched area. Approaches have tended to focus on individual needs of parent(s) or the child and usually social care agencies intervene too late, reducing the efficacy of such interventions (O’Connor et al. 2014). The candidate would undertake a qualitative research project that develops a more holistic needs assessment of the family that includes all family members and agencies which is suggested to produce better outcomes for all involved (O’Connor et al. 2014). Digital technology in the form of an ongoing research blog will be used to disseminate regular updates about the project key findings to partners and participants in this research. The PhD candidate would be joining a supervision team who have been working on improving local responses to domestic abuse offending for a number of years in collaboration with the Safer City Partnership Team and Public Health Commissioners within the local authority of Stoke on Trent. Thus the PhD project would be a continuation of this research, continuing to influence local partnerships and domestic abuse provision and has the potential to contribute new insights into policy debates and national Government strategies for tackling domestic abuse.

6. Sociology/Criminology

Supervisor: Dr Em Temple-Malt (emma.temple-malt@staffs.ac.uk)

Caring Communities: Caring for Sexual minorities in Later Life

Our ageing population is one of the key pressing social problems of our time. Of particular note, are the critical issues that surround caring for the UKs elderly population and who is responsible for delivering this care (Philipson 2013). Successive Government policies and legislation have assumed that care will be provided by relatives. This doctoral study proposes to critically examine what happens in instances where there are no biological relatives that can be relied upon to do the caring. Relatively little is known about a generation of sexual minorities who are approaching later life and are likely to have considerable caring needs. This generation lived their lives in an era where homosexuality was a highly stigmatised identity and pre-1970 a criminal offence. Sexual minorities who did not suppress their attraction to persons of same-sex and follow the normative heterosexual trajectory, risked estrangement and rejection from family-of-origin and in many cases, these disrupted kin relationships were never repaired. The seminal study by Finch and Mason (1993) illustrated that informal care is negotiated within the family and the carer comes to accrue responsibility for caring over time. What happens to older sexual minorities who are estranged from, or unable to rely upon kin relationships for care in their later life? During the 1980s and 1990s, it was well established that in the absence of biological kin, many sexual minorities turned to friends and ex-lovers to provide a supportive ‘family-like’ role (Weston 1997, Weeks et al. 2001). The doctoral thesis would seek to examine whether such informal family-like networks still exist, can informal networks of friends and ex-lovers be relied upon to deliver the practical care for elderly pseudo-relatives, and if so how do such arrangements arise? The thesis will also explore the material, social, cultural and gendered differences present in such caring communities. The findings generated from this study will make significant contributions to policy and legislation and also to ensure that the third sector charities like Age UK and others are providing services that meet the needs of a diverse ageing population.

7. Sociology/Criminology

Supervisor: Professor James Treadwell (james.treadwell@staffs.ac.uk)

The Gendered experiences of Violence and Resistance in activist and anti-Neoliberal capitalist protest movements.

In February 2016, the Guardian newspaper ran a story with the headline ‘Police ‘used sexualised violence against fracking protesters’, reporting that campaigners at Barton Moss in Salford against fracking had claimed to researchers they were groped and threatened by Greater Manchester officers. This story is shocking, in so far as it is one of the few examples of how gender is considered in literature on political protest and public order. While there is an extensive academic literature on policing protest and public order, but in that literature, the voices and experiences of women are quite frequently neglected or absent. This PhD will seek to re-frame the experiences and involvement of women in contemporary political protest globally, understanding their experiences, particularly in relation to violence. From on the English riots of 2011, the Occupy movement in London and the English Defence League in northern England, to anti-capitalist protesters empirical research on protesters has tended to be focused on the experiences of Western men as researched by men, leaving the stories and motivations of activist women under theorised and considered. This omission seems all the more shocking considering recent revelations about how such protest groups have been infiltrated and monitored by the security state in England and wales. This not only means has scant attention been given to the experiences of women activists at the hands of outside state actors, but also internally. There has been relatively little critical engagement with women activists and their experiences particularly around violence, and this project will seek to fill that gap. It will involve not only documentary analysis, but also interviews with activist women involved globally in protest movements.

8. Sociology/Criminology

Supervisor: Professor James Treadwell (james.treadwell@staffs.ac.uk)

Beaten up, banged up beaten down; Trauma, violence, domestic abuse and coping in the lives of incarcerated women

The proposers have been involved in extensive research into the genesis and factors underpinning prison and community violence. In 2018, the government is expected to launch a new domestic abuse bill and a strategy for tackling domestic abuse. However, the way that women’s experiences of violence, abuse, and trauma manifest in prison and post based experiences is subject to less contemporary discussion. Although women are less than 5% of those in prison, they account for over 25% of self-harm incidents. Women’s offending is commonly linked to underlying mental health needs, drug and alcohol problems, coercive relationships, financial difficulties and debt. Over half the women in prison report having suffered domestic violence and one in three has experienced sexual abuse. Many of them have dependent children – an estimated 17,240 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment every year. This research will seek to consider the relationship between pre-prison experiences and prison based behaviour, particularly through extensive qualitative research with female offenders in prison custody. Professor Treadwell has extensive links with HMPPS and is able to facilitate this type of work with contacts at governor grade working in women’s prisons.

9. Sociology/Criminology

Supervisor: Dr Jo Turner (jo.turner@staffs.ac.uk)

Helping women ‘through the gate’ in England: the continuities and change in third sector provision for women released from prison

As part of the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, the 2014 Offender Rehabilitation Act provides enhanced support for people leaving prison, helping them ‘through the gate’. Around a third of prisoners have nowhere to go on release and it is acknowledged that residential provision for ex-prisoners can bring significant benefits. For women, it is widely acknowledged that residential provision is especially important given the specific vulnerabilities with which women in the penal system present. During the 19th century, provision for women leaving prison was relatively abundant. However, there has been little academic consideration of the origins, continuities and changes of residential provision for women leaving prison including the ideologies and practices of the forerunners and their relationship with contemporary versions. This research will investigate the third sector provision for women leaving prison during the second half of the nineteenth century with the aim of informing policy and practice regarding third sector provision for such women today. Specifically, the research will provide the first historical analysis of the previously unknown and unexamined third sector residential provision for women released from convict prisons on conditional licence between 1860 and 1890. Using archived and digitised documents, it will examine why, how and with what effect the late nineteenth century system was created, operated, and eventually dismantled, and situate that system within the wider philanthropic provision of the period for women involved in criminal justice by providing the first comprehensive historical analysis of that wider system. By drawing attention to the role of the third sector in provision for women leaving prison in the past, this research will contribute to current policy debates around meeting the needs of women when leaving prison today.

10. Sociology/Criminology

Supervisor: Dr Jo Turner (jo.turner@staffs.ac.uk)

Mental Health and Substance Abuse: Supporting Dual Diagnosis Service Users

Service users with dual diagnosis are perceived as having less recovery capital than other service users within substance misuse and mental health services (Roberts & Bell, 2013). Dual diagnosis service users are stigmatised and a cohesive care package between substance misuse and mental health services is rarely achieved. This means that dual diagnosis service users tend to be seen by one service, rather than both, which reduces the likelihood of success. In Stoke-on-Trent, mental health services are less likely to assess and support service users with addictions. With mental health needs not being addressed effectively, the risk of vulnerability to crime (both as a victim and a perpetrator) increases, as does the likelihood of unnecessary incarceration. The stigma associated with mental health and interaction between service user and professional is a subject explored within the Sociology of Health (Barry & Yuill, 2012). The links between mental health and crime and punishment are widely discussed within Criminology (Winstone, 2015). Dual diagnosis, however, is a neglected area of research in both disciplines. This issue has also been highlighted by Community Safety Commissioners from Public Health within the Stoke-on-Trent Local Authority. Roberts & Bell (2013) highlight that service commissioning will require innovation and creativity to better meet the needs of dual diagnosis service users. Stoke-on-Trent service commissioners are keen to start this process with underpinning research to better inform commissioning practice. Findings from this doctoral research will contribute to service enhancement and development at a local level and will also provide valuable data to support positive change in other localities at a national level.

11. Forensic Science

Supervisor: Dr Laura Walton-Williams (l.m.walton@staffs.ac.uk)

Understanding Victim Reporting Trends in Sexual Offences

Whilst statistics estimating the percentage of sexual offence cases not reported to the police are widely used in literature, there is currently little understanding of the accurate picture in relation to these types of offences. The aim of this research is to understand reporting trends in cases of rape and serious sexual offences. This research will entail working in collaboration with Staffordshire Police and Third Sector Organisations (those related to supporting victims of sexual offences) to gather data relating to reporting trends. Analysis of these trends will enable recognition of opportunities to improve police investigations, to increase reporting, to better support victims and to improve prosecution rates for sexual offence cases.

12. Education

Supervisor: Dr John Wheeler (j.w.wheeler@staffs.ac.uk)

Evaluation and Development of Methodologies for the Measurement of Learning Gain in Undergraduate Science Degree Programmes

The measurement of ‘learning gain’ in U.K. Higher Education has gained momentum in recent years through the funding of 11 pilot projects to the value of £4m by HEFCE in 2015 (Staffs Uni is a partner in one of the pilot projects with Birmingham City, Liverpool John Moores and Coventry Universities) and the expectation that learning gain will be an explicit measure within the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in the near future. A number of methodologies have been proposed, developed and tested in recent years across U.K. HEIs for their suitability of the measurement of learning gain but, to date, no single approach has been identified as being appropriate, robust and reliable. Many issues have arisen during the testing, many of them due to the large scale upon which they have been attempted to be undertaken. This project aims to take a more focussed approach to the design and development of a methodology by focusing upon the measurement of learning gain for undergraduate science students. The project will evaluate currently available methodologies, identifying aspects of best practice that may be applied in our own work, develop a bespoke learning gain assessment specifically aimed at science undergraduate students, and undertake a pilot evaluation of this across a number of science curriculum areas at a number of UK HEIs.

13. Forensic Science

Supervisor: Dr Graham Williams (graham.williams@staffs.ac.uk)

Crime scene based screening and identification of intimate body fluids

The screening and identification of blood at crime scenes has been extensively and exhaustively researched with a range of strategies developed ranging from general LMG/KM testing through to ALS, Raman and Hyperspectral imaging. However, not as much work has been carried out on semen, despite the significant evidential of such body fluid. Limited work has been done, with the use of single use AP tests, combined with ALS techniques. However, not much more has been done. In addition, there is no strategy for the screening and identification of vaginal material at scenes or on items. Whilst tests have been established that can identify vaginal material, currently these are not suitable for crime scene use.
Thus the purpose of this project is to focus on enhancing BFID techniques targeting semen and vaginal material. This project may also look at strategies to screening and identifying epithelial cells or touch DNA (building on previous work done by Dr Williams)

14. Forensic Science

Supervisor: Dr Graham Williams (graham.williams@staffs.ac.uk)

Developing a robust interpretational method for clothing damage analysis

Clothing Damage Analysis (CDA) is a forensic science specialism that examines damage to clothing in order to support and allegation or defence. CDA can be commonly utilised in two different broad offences – knife attacks and sexual assaults. Knife attacks can leave stab cuts or slash cuts to the garment worn at the time and such examination can be used to offer an opinion as to activities during the alleged incident. In sexual assaults, clothing can be forcefully removed resulting in rips and tears to the garments. However, clothes can also be subject to wear and tear. In some cases, it is not easy to differentiate between the two, thus requiring expert opinion. However, the field of CDA is rather subjective and is largely based upon individual’s experience with no consistency of interpretation. This project is to develop a Bayesian based interpretational model (already used widely in the forensic sciences) and then conduct a series of experiments that will establish the key Bayesian nodes required for decision making.

15. Forensic Science

Supervisor: Dr Kirsty Squires (Kirsty.squires@staffs.ac.uk)

An investigation into the biological and chemical changes associated with decomposition of porcine remains encased in concrete

The disposal and concealment of human remains can take many forms, one of which is the use of concrete to encase or seal deceased individuals within structures (e.g. voids in walls). Despite the fact that this disposal method has been used globally for decades (e.g. Toms, Rogers, and Sathyavagiswaran, 2008), very little research has been carried out into the effects of concrete on the decomposition process (Gibelli et al., 2013; Martin et al., 2015). The exothermic reaction and calcium hydroxide produced by mixing cement is corrosive and known to damage human tissue that is encased in setting cement. However, the extent to which this damage occurs is currently unknown. The aim of this project is to investigate the biological and chemical changes to porcine remains that are interred in two distinct environments, namely the encasement of porcine remains in concrete and sealing porcine remains within concrete voids. Prior to carrying out these experiments, the porcine remains will also be subjected to various post mortem changes, including partial decomposition, burning, and the application of different types of acid, to establish how these processes affects the decomposition of remains in the aforementioned environments. Histology will be employed to explore microscopic changes to the soft and hard tissue whilst gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) will be used to explore the chemical changes to remains interred in cement. It is hoped that this research will fill a void in our current understanding of forensic taphonomy.

16. Forensic Science

Supervisor: Dr Sarah Fieldhouse (S.J.Fieldhouse@staffs.ac.uk)

The effects of DNA recovery on latent fingermarks and their use as forensic evidence

The recovery of DNA and fingermark evidence from the same location can be problematic due to contamination from fingermark visualisation techniques, and/or the destructive capability of the DNA recovery method.  Forensic investigators are often required to choose which evidence type to recover, or to recover both types from different locations.  Research typically documents the effects of fingermark visualisation techniques on the subsequent recovery of DNA, despite the contamination issues which limit their use in casework.  There would be inevitable benefits in duel recovery to law enforcement agencies, given the ability of DNA and fingermarks to aid in the identification of individuals.  Previous research carried out at the University and published in a leading forensic journal has demonstrated a simple yet effective means of facilitating duel recovery from the same location.  The team hope to continue the research, and to develop the approach into one suitable for casework.  Alternative research plans to refine the DNA recovery method. This PhD project would focus on the physical effects of DNA recovery on latent fingermark ridge structure using microscopic techniques including scanning electron microscopy.  It will also study changes to the chemical composition of the marks using appropriate techniques such as GC-MS.  The project would assess the impact of how changes to fingermark structure might impact upon their use as forensic evidence, using the opinions of fingerprint experts and AFIS metrics.

British Conference of Undergraduate Research

Some of our Forensic students represented the Criminal Justice and Forensics department at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research, held at the University of Sheffield. Each student presented their own research over the two days, 12th-13th April.

A presentation on the Analysis of Corrosive Chemicals on Clothing by Tasmin Crompton

Dominic Davis-Foster presented his research on Identifying the Brand of Ammunition from GSR

Afsane Kruszelnicki talked about her research into Persistence of Fibres in Underwater Crime Scenes

Shauna Richardson talked about Modern Slavery

Sarah Hedges presented her research into The Impact Menstruation has on Semen Persistence in Sexual Offences Cases

Adeniyi Popoola presented his poster on Use of ESLA to Retrieve Fibres from Different Surfaces

Natalie Goswell presented her research on investigating whether Contextual and Emotional Bias Influences the Interpretation of Bloodstains

Nadia discussed her research Investigating & Quantifying the Amount of GSR Recovered from a Variety of Interior Car Surfaces

Jade Chapman presented her poster on Identifying & Validating Techniques for Detecting Heroin in Porous Objects

Liss Chadwick presented her poster: An investigative approach of easily-accessible chemicals on porcine bone as a means of understanding their destructive potential 

Renniel Pena presented his poster on Comparative Analysis of Bloodstain Aging Between Animal Blood and Human Blood

 

Introducing the Forensic Fibres Microplastic Research Group

The Forensic Fibres Microplastic Research Group, here at Staffordshire University, are currently undertaking projects in a variety of areas surrounding microplastics and plastic pollution.

Currently, they are working collaboratively with the University of Palermo, University of Malta and AquaBioTech on the ‘SeaSweep’ project, to monitor marine litter in European seas using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

Another collaborative project they are contributing to is ‘Marine Microplastics: a Multidisciplinary Study Quantifying Sources, rates and sinks’ with the University of Bristol. This project aims to gain a further understanding of the sources, transport and fate of marine microplastics, to assess the risks associated with microplastics in the oceans.

On Wednesday 7th March 2018, the team attended the ‘Plastics in the Ocean: Challenges and Solutions’ conference in Cambridge hosted by the British Antarctic Survey. During the event they disseminated information about two other projects they are undertaking at Staffordshire University.

“We are conducting research into the level of microplastic pollution in freshwater, specifically the River Trent, by collecting sediment and water samples from multiple different locations. We will be collecting these samples along its duration from where it begins in Biddulph Moor, Staffordshire, to where it meets the River Ouse and forms the Humber Estuary in Lincolnshire. This is to ensure that microplastic pollution can be more accurately quantified. Additionally, we are aiming to combine forensic techniques of fibre analysis, contamination prevention, evidence tracking and evaluation with machine learning and computer vision to create a fully automated method for quantifying and characterising macro and micro plastic pollution. “

On the 23rd May 2018, Dr Claire Gwinnett also delivered a presentation on the comparison of analytical techniques for microplastic analysis at the Royal Society of Chemistry Microplastic workshop.

Dr Claire Gwinnett

Finally, we can now announce that our very own Dr Claire Gwinnet has been recognised with a prestigious scholarship for her research into the global problem of microplastics. She is the second person from the School Law, Policing and Forensics to receive this award and is among only 150 people to receive the Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship this year.

This funding will allow Dr Gwinnett to build on this research by travelling across the USA and Australasia, visiting fellow scientists who also partake in the analysis of microplastics and the education around plastic pollution. She will be working with the Rozalia Project joining them on their 2018 expedition along the Hudson River, sampling microplastics from the river and the air from onboard what is recognised as the greenest sailing research vessel in the world, the famous American Promise.

You can keep update with their research news on Twitter and their Blog.