Toni Chan - MSc Forensic Science
What appealed to you about Northumbria University / studying in Newcastle?
I previously did my undergraduate degree in Human Biosciences at Northumbria and thoroughly enjoyed my three years. The School of Life Sciences has invested a lot of money in refurbishing all the laboratories and purchasing the latest scientific equipment, which I think is very important in a vocational course like forensic science. Newcastle is an ultimate student city in my opinion: plenty of good restaurants and shops, only a few hours away on train to London or Glasgow, spectacular seaside and landscape, cruises to Amsterdam and Norway; last but not least fantastic night life every day of the week!
What was it about the course / subject area that particularly appealed?
Forensic Science is a very fascinating area in biology and chemistry. I developed my interest in forensic science during my final year of my previous degree when I came across DNA profiling and blood analysis. Being a forensic scientist, not only do you need the extensive scientific knowledge but also the ability to link the crime scene and evidence to the suspect, which I always find very intriguing and challenging.
The Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science (NUCFS) was formed in 2010 and worked very closely with many of the leading UK criminal justice organisations. A series of presentations by international, national and NUFCS speakers are held by the University regularly as well as hosting national and international conferences to which we are always invited to attend.
What qualifications did you have?
I am a mature student, previously left school with three A levels, then worked full time for three years before returning to Higher Education at Northumbria and graduated last year.
How did you feel during your first week at Northumbria?
The first week is always ‘nerve-racking’ although I know the place like the back of my hand. Because we only have a small number in the master class, everyone soon got on very well with each other after one day! The Students’ Union also offered a lot of activities during the welcome week, e.g. paintballing, day trips, bowling and an Ikea trip etc. Anyone can make friends in no time!
What do you like most about the course?
All the staff have years of experience with different forensic science service providers and police forces throughout the UK, and we also have visiting lecturers who are currently working in the field to provide us with the most up-to-date information.
Also the lab sessions are very helpful to our learning and soon we will visit the house in Coach Lane Campus which they use to set up crime scenes to simulate the real working environment.
Can you give an example of a piece of work you’ve been involved with recently and what it involves?
Apart from the usual forensic knowledge, we also have to learn about bioethics which I think is very interestingly different from academic work. We, as a group, decided to look at the ethics around the National DNA database (NDNAD) and how TV media like CSI TV shows and other crime investigation-related movies affect our society in relation to crimes. We need to produce a national survey as part of the assessment, as work progresses, we all have a better understanding of how much of an impact forensic science has on society, and what responsibilities we have as forensic scientists.
What do you do when you’re not studying?
I am a keen sportsman and Newcastle Eagles fan, and the new modern sports centre has just everything I need: gym, swimming pool, climbing wall, basketball/indoor football courts. Last but not least, home of Newcastle Eagles and Northumbria students get discounted tickets too!
I also work as a student representative for the university, promoting Higher Education to a wide range of age groups in schools and also helping out on Open Days. This is a good way to earn money and to get to know a lot of people from other courses.
What’s your accommodation like?
I live in a rented flat near Tynemouth, which is about eight miles away from the city but I like being close to the sea/beach which is only 20 minutes walk away.
How do you get on with your tutors?
They operate an open door policy which means we can go and knock on their office doors whenever we want. They are very quick at replying to emails too!
What would you like to do when you graduate?
I am hoping to work abroad, preferably Hong Kong or Canada as a Forensic Scientist, or become a Scene of Crime Officer (SOCO) in the police force.
Do you have any advice for anyone applying for your course, or for university in general?
If you are not sure about what the course is like, get in touch with the Admissions Team and ask to arrange a one day shadowing, so you can be a forensic science student for a day and see what it’s like. Because forensic science IS NOT just simply what you see on TV.