Photographing bullet trajectories using laser beams on the Advanced Photography module
Can you please tell us a little about your background in Forensic Science and the path that led you to working at UCLan?
I was initially employed as a Crime Scene Investigator (or SOCO, Scenes of Crime Officer) by West Mercia Constabulary based in Telford where I cut my teeth, so to speak. I spent several years there learning the skills of crime scene examination. Whilst there I gained the University of Durham diploma in crime scene examination. I then moved to Lancashire constabulary where I was based at Blackpool. I gained vast amounts of experience whilst there dealing with many types of crime scene, from suspicious devices, fatal arson to serial murder. While there I gained the Forensic Science Society (now Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences) Diploma in crime scene examination. After several years gaining all that experience I began passing on that knowledge to police probationers, potential CSI’s, people who wanted home security advice and full time serving police officers in the form of organised classes.I found that I enjoyed teaching and passing on knowledge and skills in what was a very little known about career at the time. In 2001 UCLan established a Centre for Forensic Science and advertised for someone to teach the crime scene aspect. As teaching is what I had been gaining experience in, and enjoyed it, I applied and was successful.
What was it about UCLan that appealed to you?
I became the first CSI in the country to be employed by an educational establishment; as a result, UCLan was the first University to have crime scene houses in which to teach CSI skills. I enjoyed the fact that essentially I was given a blank canvas on which to develop that part of the curriculum. We now have several ex CSI managers with masses of experience, 3 crime scene houses and a forensic warehouse where we teach vehicle examination using four vehicles and basic and advanced CSI photography.
What is your career highlight to date?
I have had more than one highlight whilst working at UCLan. On a personal level, it would be achieving a Master’s degree in photography. Photography has been a hobby of mine since the age of 5 when I helped my Father in his home made darkroom. It is also the primary method of recording a crime scene, so is very relevant. As far as my course; BSc in Forensic Science & Criminal Investigation, (of which I was course leader for 12 years) it would be winning Gold at the World Skills UK in the annual National Forensic Science competition at the NEC Birmingham for two years consecutively. The course is unique in the country in that it is designed to exceed the National Occupational Standards for a career in CSI and as a direct result we have had many students employed by local constabularies without the requirement for further training. We hope to build on this success with the establishment of the Lancashire Forensic Science Academy which is a collaboration between ourselves and Lancashire constabulary.
Which area of Forensics fascinates you the most and why?
That is easy, it would have to be photography and associated technology. As I have said it is the primary method of recording a crime scene. Over the years I have witnessed many changes; from film to digital, the use of digital techniques such as 360 degree photography at crime scenes, aerial photography using drones and the possibility of using virtual reality and/or augmented reality to view crime scenes. The latter is cutting edge technology, and consequently, in order to replicate what is being used in the workplace and stay ahead of the competition, we have already incorporated aspects of those techniques into the course.
What are your teaching responsibilities?
Since beginning my teaching career in 2001 I have written and designed almost every CSI module on the course, as well as teaching and running those modules as module tutor. In 2005 I became course leader of the BSc in FSCI and developed it to where it is now; one of the best recruiting courses in the University. I also initially set up our 3 crime scene houses in which to teach the skills required of a CSI. Most of these modules are now run by my colleagues to a very high standard as they are also ex crime scene managers. This has enabled me to concentrate on developing the initial and advanced photography modules and carry out some research in developmental photography. I also organised opportunities for students to shadow working CSI’s in the workplace for several years with Lancashire Constabulary and I continue to enter students into the National World Skills UK completion each year. I have also set up an exchange programme with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona where I have taken 30 students over the past three years to teach Disaster Victim Identification using their unique Crash Site Laboratory. I also teach the crime scene aspect on our MSc in Forensic Science. I also have responsibilities as admissions tutor for the past 5 years, retention tutor and more recently, developing the school’s Continuous Professional Development provision.
What is the best part of being a University lecturer in general?
This probably sounds slightly clichéd, however it is witnessing the students develop over the years into mature, employable young adults and then hearing of their successes in the workplace, knowing that I played a part in that success.
What would your advice be for any Forensic Science students starting in September?
I would say to arrive at UCLan with an open mind, engage in every opportunity you can; that includes hobbies and interests, not just academia and forget what you have seen on forensic type TV programmes. If you join our courses, know that the benchmark is set very high, however with an amount of personal application you can achieve your goals. Just remember, thousands of students have been in exactly the position you will be in, they have successfully graduated and gained further success in employment. We have a proven track record in providing the skills required for successful employment but it also requires a commitment to learn and engage on your behalf.