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Contact Traces leaves forensic science market

Published: Aug 5, 2015 9:55:17 AM

Blind testing in forensic labs

Published: Aug 5, 2015 9:31:35 AM

FBI notifies crime labs of errors

Published: Jun 15, 2015 9:03:22 AM

Overview and structure


This programme is available full-time only, and students are expected to complete the taught modules and dissertation in one calendar year beginning and ending in September. The MSc programme is worth 180 credits in total and is composed of 5 compulsory modules (including a 10,000 word dissertation) and 3 optional modules.


Compulsory modules concentrate on understanding the scientific principles behind forensic science and how these are interpreted in the courtroom. One of the compulsory modules is delivered by experts from UCL Laws. Optional modules are provided by departments across UCL such as Security and Crime Science, Psychology, Chemistry and Archaeology. There is also an optional module on crime scene investigation provided in collaboration with City of London Police.

Designing and doing research

Gives students an understanding of the general principles of scientific endeavour and progress. Looks specifically at the nature of scientific knowledge, what counts as evidence, the role of theory development and the importance of hypothesis formulation and testing. Examines general principles of enquiry and investigation, the role of rationality and dealing with uncertainty in a complex world.

This module is compulsory and worth 15 credits.

Foundations of security and crime science

The purpose of this module is to set out the foundational concepts, theories and approaches that underpin the MSc programmes offered in the Department of Security and Crime Science. In this way the module provides and overarching framework for the modules that follow. It outlines the distinctive nature of the crime science approach to understanding, preventing, detecting and investigating crime and security problems. It presents the key theories that explain the temporal and spatial patterning of crime and terrorism events, and introduces students to associated strategies for disrupting these patterns. The need for a multidisciplinary approach - especially the integration of the social and physical sciences - to addressing crime and security problems is emphasised, with the contributions of the forensic sciences and security technology highlighted.

This module is compulsory and worth 15 credits.

Quantitative methods

Provides an understanding of the principles of research design and statistical analysis and those methods most appropriate to the application of crime and forensic science. This module will enable students to apply these principles to the real world problem of crime control, understand how to read and interpret research reports and decide what conclusions can be drawn from different designs and statistical analyses.

This module is compulsory and worth 15 credits.

Judicial decision-making and expert evidence

This innovative module explores the critical role judges play in expert evidence in criminal, civil and family cases, including the assessment of expert evidence and presentation of evidence to juries. The module examines judicial decision-making from an empirical perspective – what do we know about how judges actually make decisions in relation to expert evidence, and how can this be studied?

It is an active participatory module, where students gain first hand experience of judicial decision-making on expert evidence through a series of Hands-On Judicial Decision-Making Seminars. Leading judges and experts also share their knowledge with students through the course’s Special Judicial Guest Seminars.

This is a compulsory module worth 15 credits

Understanding and interpreting forensic evidence

This module introduces students to the key themes concerned with the interpretation of forensic evidence. It includes evaluation of evidence, assessing the weight of evidence, Bayesian theory, specific issues for DNA evidence interpretation in forensic contexts and a broad introduction to the various different forms of forensic evidence that are routinely used in criminal investigations.

This module is compulsory and worth 15 credits.

Structural methods in modern chemistry

This module aims to present the theoretical and practical aspects of the four main methods for the characterisation of molecular species and solids. Students will develop an appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of each method. They will acquire the skills needed to solve problems in crystallography, NMR and IR spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry, and learn to appreciate the complementarity of the information provided by each method.

Case assessment and interpretation for forensic scientists

This module explores the need for interpretation of forensic science in a legal context, with case studies and workshops that will give students an overview of the work of expert witnesses and the chain of evidence between scene and court. It will be delivered by experts from Principal Forensic Services with years of experience in the field, in conjunction with academics from UCL.

This is an optional module and is worth 15 credits.

Frontiers of experimental physical chemistry

This module covers three topics of current research interest in experimental physical chemistry: surface science, excited molecules and atmospheric chemistry. Examples of topics covered include: the various experimental techniques used to investigate the interaction of molecules with metal surfaces; examples of excited state chemistry such as combustion and plasma chemistry; and the factors controlling atmospheric composition.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits.

Fundamentals of molecular biology

Students will learn about the structure and properties of DNA, with and emphasis on the practical aspects of DNA manipulation. They will gain an understanding of DNA as genetic material and the properties of the enzymes used in in vitro DNA manipulation. They will learn the basic techniques of molecular biology such as electrophoresis, blotting, sequencing, cloning and the polymerase chain reaction, undertaking practical work to gain hands-on experience of these techniques.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits.

Practices of crime scene investigation and expert testimony

Students are introduced to a variety of crime scene investigative techniques and then given the opportunity to investigate a mock crime scene and collect forensic evidence, culminating in the presentation of their evidence in a mock courtroom setting. Lectures alongside the practical element will consolidate the techniques learned. This module is run in collaboration with City of London Police and students will have the opportunity to visit their labs during the course and benefit from their expertise.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits. Part of it will take place during the Easter vacation.

Forensic geoscience

This module introduces students to the field of forensic geoscience from the macro to the micro scales, discussing key concepts concerning the philosophical approach and forensic practices. It introduces student to the capacity of the geosciences to yield temporal and spatial intelligence of use in forensic investigations and evidence that can be useful in building a case for presentation in court.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits.

Investigating fraud

This module provides students with an understanding of the drivers for and practices associated with corporate fraud represented within published financial statements. It establishes a framework for detective work where fraud may be suspected but is hidden. Prior accounting/finance studies are not assumed.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits. This module is not running in the 2014/2015 academic year.

Information security management

Provides students with an understanding of how to apply the principles of information security management in a variety of contexts, and an appreciation of the relationship between the various elements of information security management and its role in protecting organisations. Topics covered include: governance and security policy, threat and vulnerability management, forensic computing, security awareness and security implementation considerations.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits.

Judgment and decision making

Students are introduced to normative and descriptive models of judgments and choice. Formal models will include the axioms of probability, Bayesian networks, decision theory and game theory. Current psychological models of judgment and choice will be presented, including heuristics and biases, prospect theory, decision field theory, sampling approaches and rational analysis models. These will be evaluated and linked with more general principles of cognition.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits. 

Forensic archaeology

This module provides an introduction and background to forensic archaeology and related fields, and their application in forensic science/crime scene investigations. Students are introduced to key concepts including: scene of crime management and archaeological intervention; police procedures and the forensic archaeologist; archaeological techniques and when to apply them; human rights investigations, working within a multidisciplinary approach; and responsibilities and accountability.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits.

Forensic osteology

This module provides an introduction to the role of the dead body in crime and forensic science, initially introducing the student to the newly deceased and discussing how the process of decomposition finally results in skeletal remains. Students are introduced to skeletal anatomy and in particular to the forensically relevant skeletal elements that can be used to help identify an individual. They will have the opportunity to examine human remains both with and without soft tissue and to see how human remains can be involved in forensic cases.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits.


All students will research and write a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of their choice, developed with the support of an academic supervisor.

This module is compulsory and worth 60 credits.


By the end of the programme students will be prepared for a variety of different career paths, including research, crime investigation, forensic science provision, policy making and public sector careers such as the civil service.

Page last modified on 30 apr 15 11:07