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Forensic Science Research Group

Translational and practice-informed forensic research at Northumbria

Forensic Science is the application of scientific methods and techniques to assist the criminal and civil justice systems. Forensic science is concerned with the detection, identification, and interpretation of physical trace evidence. In practice, forensic science draws upon a wide range of applied sciences including chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, botany, anthropology and archaeology. 

The Forensic Science Research Group (FSRG) at Northumbria comprises a highly interdisciplinary group of scientists and ex-practitioners in forensic science, who are interested in advancing knowledge and contributing to the profession and wider society. We are working across disciplinary boundaries in a range of subjects from analytical chemistry, human biology, microbiology, and statistical modelling, to the application of forensic policy and the law. Members of the group have published widely in forensic science and other applied subject areas, and have contributed to casework in the investigation of volume and major crimes, including homicide, serious sexual assault and crimes against humanity. 

The core mission of the FSRG is the development of integrated multi-proxy approaches to forensic science, and particularly evidence interpretation based on a robust understanding of the persistence and transfer of trace evidence in the forensic environment. To this end we are researching a number of broad areas of forensic science, but with a distinct multi-disciplinary focus:

  • Human identification (including forensic genetics, biometrics and forensic anthropology)
  • Chemical criminalistics and trace evidence analysis (gunshot and explosive residues, hairs and fibres, toxicology, latent print chemistry and enhancement)
  • Crime scenes and burial environments (blood pattern analysis, forensic archaeology, taphonomy and thanatology, forensic proteomics)
  • Evidence interpretation and legal frameworks (Bayes modelling, evidential quality and standards, forensic databases)

Based in the Department of Applied Sciences, collaborating with colleagues from the biosciences, chemistry, law, criminalistics, geography and environmental science we have a range of research projects spanning the interface between forensic science and other investigative fields such as environmental chemistry, criminal law, criminalistics, archaeology and palaeoanthropology. We also have a vibrant post-graduate and post-doctoral research community within the FSRG. 

Several of the FSRG team are also members of the TeLePRT Pedagogical Research Group with particular interest in the use of technology to enhance forensic science training and professional practice for students, forensic practitioners, and law enforcement. TeLePRT is led by FSRG staff member Eleanor Graham.

The FSRG is committed to the communication of forensic science to the professional community and public. As part of that goal, we host a regular series of invited guest research seminars related to forensic science and its impact on society. 

Forensic Science Research Group Leader: Dr Patrick Randolph-Quinney

Academic Staff

Dr Aaron Amankwaa has research interests in the evaluation of the effectiveness of forensic DNA databases, biometrics, forensic technologies, and the development of forensic genetic testing, with a focus on increasing DNA yield/ quality and determining the age of biological evidence.

Dr Sophie Carr undertakes research in the application of ‘critical trust’ to considerations of the reliability of forensic evidence, in collaboration with Northumbria Centre for Evidence and Criminal Justice Studies.

Dr Ruth Croxton has research interests in latent fingermarks and studying their chemistry to derive information about the person who left them or developing and evaluating new enhancement techniques. She also has interests in drugs abuse, trace evidence and pedagogy in forensic science. Ruth is also a member of the TeLePRT Pedagogical Research Group, and has interests in the development of virtual reality crime scenes for training students and the police.

Dr Matteo Gallidabino undertakes research in gunshot residue analysis and firearms identification, and the application of Bayesian principles to the evaluation of forensic science evidence.

Dr Eleanor Graham undertakes research in the application of molecular genetics to human identification and forensic evidence at the activity level, including both low-template DNA analysis and wildlife forensics, and to archaeological specimens via ‘ancient DNA’. Eleanor leads the TeLePRT Pedagogical Research Group and is interested in embedding forensic employability within the academic curriculum. 

Dr Alan Langford has a primary research interest in pedagogy, specifically in advancing knowledge in teaching and learning in forensic science. He has also published on the interpretation of toxicological evidence in legal-medicine. Alan is also a member of the TeLePRT Pedagogical Research Group, and has interests in the development of virtual reality to provide an immersive learning experience for students as well as the development of CPD activities for professional in fields such as crime scene investigation. 

Dr Ed Schwalbe has research interests in statistics and bioinformatics, including the investigation of patterns of DNA methylation in the identification of body fluids and tissue sources, as well providing statistical support to other members of the group.

Dr Kelly Sheridan is an expert in forensic textile fibre analysis, having conducted research in fibre transfer and persistence in a number of practical contexts, and in the interpretation of fibre evidence.

Dr Noemi Procopio undertakes research in taphonomy and decomposition, including applications of “omics” methodologies, principally of proteomics, to address ageing and post-mortem interval estimations.

Dr Patrick Randolph-Quinney has research interests in human identification, forensic archaeology, and forensic taphonomy. His main forensic specialisation is taphonomy (peri and post-mortem processes) with an emphasis on sub-surface burial processes, trauma analysis, the recovery and analysis of burnt human remains, and the application of digital methods in the analysis of spatial taphonomy and the decomposition process. Pat is also a member of the TeLePRT Pedagogical Research Group, and is interested in virtual and augmented reality methods in immersive learning and training, and standards development in forensic archaeological field training.

Research and Knowledge Exchange

We are active in research in forensic DNA and databases, forensic taphonomy and thanatology, forensic anthropology, trace evidence analysis—transfer and persistence, gunshot residue analysis and firearms identification, forensic drug analysis and toxicology, latent print chemistry and enhancement, blood pattern analysis, and issues in forensic science policy and procedure. We collaborate with other groups in the University:

We also engage with eternal partners and stakeholders in the academic, private and governmental sectors. Our researchers also are engaged with academic quality assurance and subject development through various agencies. Some of our external stakeholders and partners include:

Forensic Casework and Consultancy

Members of the FSRG actively participate in case consultancy work. Please visit the individual staff pages for further details of expertise.

Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Researchers

We have a vibrant postgraduate and postdoctoral community within the FSRG. Our staff also co-supervise researchers at external institutions. Our current PG and PD researchers comprise:

  • Rahab Al-Balushi
  • Andrea Bonicelli
  • Sue Carney 
  • Luke Gent
  • Alysha Green
  • Chimdia Kechi-Okafor
  • Blake Kesic
  • Alexander Parkinson (Wits, South Africa)
  • Valentina Perrone
  • Federica Sellitto
  • Keziah Warburton (UClan)
  • Jason Williams-James (UCLan)

 

Prospective postgraduate research students are encouraged to enquire with the relevant member of staff. University information on postgraduate research studies can be found here.

Further Information

For further information on research and consultancy interests, please contact Dr Patrick Randolph-Quinney or individual staff members.


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