Forensic genetics involves the production, comparison and evaluation of DNA profiles in order to identify biological material, as well as relationships between individuals.
UCLan’s Forensic Genetics Group uses dedicated laboratories with the latest equipment to develop high quality research and forge productive links with international organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, overseas research institutes and other forensic providers.
In addition to our work at the University we are also provide consultancy services to external agencies such as the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Work on DNA extraction and persistence, and evaluation of DNA evidence along with casework experience has informed the published guidelines produced by the International Committee of the Red Cross, distributed to governments around the world involved in the identification of human remains.
Short courses run in genetics for international audiences, disseminating both casework and research findings to practitioners.
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The International Committee of the Red Cross’ Guideline on the use of DNA analysis for the identification of human remains can be accessed here.
Two taught MScs are available in the area of Forensic Genetics:
This one year course is taught across three semesters. The first two semesters are delivered as taught modules and the third semester consists of an independently undertaken research project. The course is designed for both graduate students and forensic practitioners. Based within one of the largest Forensic Science Schools in the world, this course has been running since 2003 and has consistently attracted diverse students from around the world. Small cohort sizes allow the use of a diverse range of assessments and the provision of considerable student support.
Students will study the fundamentals of molecular genetics that underpin the discipline of DNA profiling. They will also have the opportunity to undertake simulated cases from the analysis of the evidence through to the DNA analysis and the presentation of a written report. The interpretation of DNA evidence will be examined in detail; this will involve the analysis of complex (degraded and mixed) profiles, and familiarisation with the statistical analysis involved in human population genetics, which is central to the numerical interpretation of DNA profiles.
The course will develop theoretical knowledge and practical application of the key aspects of forensic DNA profiling. While the course will focus on forensic applications the skills developed will also be transferable to different types of diagnostic DNA typing. The course will also provide the opportunity to develop key transferable skills including research techniques, critical analysis of written material and communication skills.
For further information, see our main course listing.
This new one year course which started in September 2010 is taught across three semesters. The first two semesters are delivered as taught modules and the third semester consists of an independently undertaken research project. This course, which uniquely combines forensic and genetic elements within one of the largest Forensic Science Schools in the world, runs in conjunction with other well established and popular MSc courses. Small cohort sizes allows the use of a diverse range of assessments and the provision of considerable student support. The course is designed for graduate students and forensic practitioners interested in developing skills in using genetics for wildlife conservation and animal/wildlife forensic investigations.
Students study the fundamentals of molecular genetics and the application of genetic techniques within the fields of forensic and conservation genetics. Students also learn the statistical analyses involved which are central to the accurate interpretation of genetic data. They will have the opportunity to undertake simulated cases from the analysis of evidence through to DNA analysis and presentation of a written report. Key transferable skills such as research techniques, critical analysis of written material, and communication skills will also be developed.
Students graduating from this course will be well placed to undertake further research at the doctoral level or take up jobs in wildlife crime units or forensic/genetics/veterinary/diagnostic laboratories.
For further information, see our main course listing.
The Forensic Genetics Group has provided a number of bespoke short courses. If you have any training requirements please contact us.
Sharizah Alimat, Malaysia
Sharizah has joined us from Kimia – Malaysia’s Federal forensic provider. She is looking at the population genetics of SNP polymorphisms in the different Malaysian populations and assessing the utility of SNP markers for forensic work in Malaysia, where much of the recovered evidence cannot be profiled using standard techniques because of the high levels of DNA degradation caused through exposure to the high environmental temperatures and humidity.
Bushra Idris, United Kingdom
Bushra is carrying his research out part-time whilst at the same time establishing and running a forensic DNA laboratory in Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. He is looking at the persistence of DNA evidence on different surfaces in response to environmental exposure and assessing the optimum extraction and profiling techniques for DNA profiling of environmentally degraded DNA.
Sasitaran Iyavoo, Malaysia
Sasitaran is evaluating seven different methods that are used for the extraction of DNA from bone samples. He is using animal bones to test and optimise methods before applying the optimised techniques to casework samples that have not yielded results using the currently adopted methods. In addition he is designing an assay to assess for DNA degradation and PCR inhibition.
Wafa Al Rashed Ibrahim, United Arab Emirates
Wafa is evaluating the commercially available kits in the United Arab Emirates. She will be sampling and profiling a large sample in order to assess which loci are most useful for different forensic contexts..
Graduated Research Students
Helen Godfrey, United Kingdon (Graduated, PhD 2013)
Helen’s research focuses on the genetic identification of UK blowfly (Calliphoridae) species, which are often found inhabiting a body post-mortem. The identification of the species present along with their life-cycle stage helps investigators determine a time since death. Traditional identification based on morphological characteristics is often problematic. It is hoped that this research will enable these species to be unambiguously identified using a genetic test. The aim of the project was to assess the potential usefulness of a range of genetic markers to differentiate between UK species of forensic importance, based on DNA sequence data and single nucleotide polymorphisms.
Dan Clark, United Kingdom (Graduated, PhD 2013)
His work looked at the use of DNA polymorphisms in inferring geographical origin of a sample. Five populations were studied from Pakistan (Makrani, Baluchi, Punjabi, Pushtoon, and Sindhi). Using SNaPshot analysis (Applied Biosystems) alongside other techniques, the aim was to compile a database of polymorphisms exhibiting geographical diversity, with the possibility of using it to aid police investigations.
Muhammed Shahid Nazir, Pakistan (Graduated, PhD 2012)
Shahid is investigating the relationship between accumulated degree days (ADD) and DNA preservation in soft tissues. His project involves developing PCR multiplexes that will work with humans, pigs and rabbits and allow the degradation of DNA to be monitored - pigs and rabbits are used as the experimental models. The level of degradation will be compared to the average ambient temperature over the time period of the experiments (ADD).
Nathalie Zahra, Malta (Graduated, PhD, 2010)
Nathalie started her PhD in January 2006 after completing her MSc in DNA Profiling at UCLan. Her project involved the development of PCR Internal Controls (PICs) to be used as controls for the efficiency of PCR and Non-Amplified Controls (NICs) to be used along with the PICs as sizing standards during genotyping of forensic samples. These markers can also be used to monitor for PCR inhibitors, which are commonly found and co-extracted with DNA in forensic samples. Nathalie is now working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester.
Mohammed Al-enizi, State of Kuwait (Graduated, PhD, 2010)
Many forensic cases involve the identification of skeletal human remains. Predicting whether a bone sample can be successfully analysed is difficult. This research focused on 50 bones samples collected from five mass graves dating from the first Gulf War in 1990-1991. Developing an effective system or triage (sorting of samples based on the likelihood of successful analysis) would be a valuable tool, speeding up the identification process and reducing the effort expended on samples that have little prospect of yielding a DNA. In this study, the morphological and chemical status of the bones was be compared to the amount and quality of DNA that can be recovered. The relationship between four diagenetic parameters; gross preservation, histological preservation, nitrogen content, and amino acid racemization was assessed in comparison to the recovery of DNA. In addition, the project optimised a DNA extraction procedure to remove a potent PCR inhibitor that co-extracted with the DNA. Mohammad is now working in the DNA Identification laboratory in Kuwait.
Sheikha Sanqoor, United Arab Emirates (Graduated, PhD, 2010)
Sheikha joined the group as a PhD student in April 2006. Her project is the study and identification of novel Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) within an Arabic Population. In order to achieve her aims, 250 thousand SNPs were screened using the Affymetrix 250k DNA chip. SNPs within samples from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) population were further studied in a large random collection of DNA samples from Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE to identify highly variable SNPs, which are suitable for forensic casework. These samples were then analysed using real-time PCR and SNaPshot techniques. The effectiveness of SNPs compared to STRs was assessed using degraded DNA.
Latheqia Sallam, United Arab Emirates (Graduated, MSc by research, 2006)
For her postgraduate research, Latheqia used samples from three major groups of people from the UAE (Arab, Indian, Pakistani) to develop a Y chromosome STR database for forensic use in the UAE. Using the AmpFℓSTR® Y filer™ kit, which amplifies 17 Y STR loci (Applied Biosystems), she has successfully typed 414 samples and obtained valuable information on allele/haplotype frequencies in these populations and their genetic structure. She is in the process of writing up her results for publication. She is currently the Head of the Biology Division in the Police Laboratory, Abu Dhabi.
Students completing the MSc DNA Profiling have a good track record in obtaining relevant employment with forensic service providers (including the Forensic Science Service, Orchid Cellmark, and the Laboratory of Government Chemists (LGC)). Several students (approximately 15% of graduates) who have wanted to further their academic qualifications have been successful in getting onto Ph.D. programmes, both in the UK and overseas.
Of the twelve graduates in 2009-2010 eight found directly relevant work in the UK with private forensic service providers, one has been employed by a local college to teach biology and forensic science, and three have returned to their home countries to work with their national forensic service providers.
Nathalie Zahra, Malta, MSc DNA Profiling
After completing her MSc Nathalie has done a PhD in Forensic Genetics within the School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, University of Central Lancashire. “Intensive and challenging but satisfying in the end!”
Sally Watson, United Kingdom, MSc DNA Profiling
Sally is now pursuing a degree in Law at the University of Central Lancashire. “Extremely informative, interesting and thought provoking, made all the better by staff and friends”.
Bram Bekaert, Belgium, MSc DNA Profiling
Bram has now completed a PhD in molecular biology at the School of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, University of Surrey and is working as a molecular biologist/forensic scientist in Belgium. “Experienced and motivated lecturers who give an excellent, up-to-date course with the best placements in the forensics research area in the end. What more do you want?”
For any enquiries regarding postgraduate courses, research degrees (MSc by research, MPhil or PhD), bespoke short courses, or consultancy please contact Dr William Goodwin via email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone (+44 1772 894254) or at the address below:
School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences
University of Central Lancashire