MSc Fire Investigation develops fire investigation knowledge and practical experience of investigation of actual fire scenes including excavation of fire debris, location of the seat of fire, investigation of the cause of fire, analysis for accelerants.
This course is designed for those who are employed, or who wish to pursue a career, in the area of fire investigation as a fire officer, crime scene investigator, forensic scientist or insurance investigator.
Fire Investigation is the analysis of fire-related incidents and is a highly multi-disciplinary area. Fire investigators need knowledge of fire behaviour, scene management, analytical chemistry and investigative skills. This course covers fire science and fire behaviour, fire investigation, analytical science, and provides students with research skills and knowledge of being an expert witness in the English legal system.
Specific entry requirements for this course are:
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MSc Fire Investigation comprises the following modules:
Research Methods: Trains students in a wide range of skills including technical documentation, project management, data analysis and retrieval, writing and research skills, and library use.
Fire and Combustion: Describes the fundamentals of fire behaviour, from smouldering to ignition, fire growth and flashover, the temperatures and thermal effects during the different stages, which underpin any investigation of a fire scene. This will include the effects of structures and their contents, and the effects of fire fighting on the fire scene, and the behaviour of explosives and explosions.
Forensic Analysis: Covers the fundamentals of chemical analysis, including sampling methods, separation science and molecular identification are studied, in preparation for collection, analysis and identification of accelerants from a fire scene. The module will also deal with procedures for collection and presentation of scientific evidence for legal proceedings.
Practical Fire Investigation: Provides students with the detailed knowledge and practical experience of fire investigation. Areas covered will include recognition of causes of fire, laboratory analysis of fire debris, fire fatalities, and management of fire investigation.
Expert Witness in the Legal Process: Covers communication skills and provides background and training in expert witness delivery, the study of British and International Law.
Human Response to Fire: Concerns itself with the effects of fire on human life. The response of humans to the hazardous components of fire will influence their ability to escape. The majority of fire deaths are caused through inhalation of toxic gases, with burn injuries also making a significant contribution, while an unknown number of fire victims are trapped by the presence of incapacitating effects of smoke (visual obscuration) and irritant gases.
Research Project: Every student will undertake a research project, which will use and enhance many of the skills learnt on the course. The project will be based within the University or on a placement with a suitable fire investigation agency or analytical unit. The result should be a publishable quality paper and students will also be required to give a presentation of their findings.
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Details of the UK Government postgraduate loan scheme for students commencing a Masters Postgraduate programme for the 2017/18 academic year.
The Fire Laboratory houses a full suite of fire test equipment where the flammability and fire toxicity of various materials can be investigated. MSc students take practical classes, carry out simulated casework and conduct lab-based dissertation research projects. Students also have access to a wide range of analytical instrumentation in the Faculty of Science and Technology’s Analytical Unit. The Unit has gas chromatographs with pyrolysis injection capability and FID, MS and EC detectors, ion chromatographs and high performance liquid chromatographs with diode array, fluorescence and MS and Differential refractometer detectors. The Unit also has facilities for atomic absorption, UV-visible and infrared spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, NMR spectrometry, inductive coupled plasma mass spectrometry and Scanning Electron Microscopy With Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (SEM/EDAX).
The course will be delivered through lectures, tutorials and practical exercises. Guided teaching and formal assessments will enhance the development of transferable skills such as report-writing, maintenance of case notes, formal presentations, participation in discussions, ability to work to deadlines, computing skills, public speaking, scientific analysis, adherence and development of laboratory protocols and research methods.
Assessment is by exam, practicals and coursework. Assessments include the examination of fire scenes from real fires and producing case notes and reports, essays, moot courts, presentations and a dissertation.
Students graduating from this course will be well placed to gain employment in fire investigation teams, forensic science laboratories, and fraud departments in major government or private organisations, or to go on to further research in academia.