UCL showcase demystifies forensic science

14 April 2010

UCL hosted a public forensic science showcase as part of the UK Fingerprint Society's Annual Educational Conference on 10 April.

Conference organiser and forensic archaeologist Kimberlee Moran (UCL Laws) describes the day’s events below.


Finding out about fingerprinting

“The 200 visitors to the Gower Street Quad were met by the mounted division of the City of London police and scenes-of-crime officers of the British Transport Police, as well as police motorbikes and cyclists. They were then able to try their hand at fingerprinting dusting and lifting through workshops. A criminal barrister provided the insider’s view of the courtroom experience and gave a taste of his work by giving a colleague a cross-examination grilling.

Natasha McEnroe from UCL Museums and Collection gave a public lecture about Sir Francis Galton, the father of fingerprinting and his collection at UCL, and I drew on my experience as a practising forensic archaeologist in my lecture on the basics of fingerprinting science.

UCL was chosen to host the UK Fingerprint Society's Annual Educational Conference due to its connection with Sir Francis Galton, commonly known as the father of fingerprinting, whose collection of scientific instruments, papers, and personal memorabilia is housed at UCL Biology. He established what would become the Galton Laboratory at UCL in 1904, and his discovery that fingerprints can be used as a method of identification revolutionised policing. The university’s present-day pioneering work in this field was also an attraction for the society – it is soon to launch a Centre for the Forensic Sciences at the UCL Jill Dando Institute for Crime Science (JDI).

In addition, UCL's commitment to public engagement, widening participation, and access to higher education made us an obvious choice to pilot an event designed to open the doors to the world of forensic research and practice to the general public.

Handling the horses

One visitor enthused: ‘It's great to see real-life CSI [crime scene investigation] and to learn more about what the experts really do!’, and the UK Fingerprinting Society was equally pleased with the event. A committee member of said: 'We have never engaged the public before and involved them in our conference. Thank you UCL for making this happen!'

UCL President and Provost Professor Malcolm Grant opened the conference itself, reflecting on UCL's strengths in forensic work through the ages. The Chief Constable of the British Transport Police gave the keynote speech about the 7 July bombings to the delegates, half of whom were from the UCL community.

A town meeting will be held on 25 May at 1:30pm in the JZ Young Lecture Theatre about the new Centre for the Forensic Sciences, where we’ll be presenting our vision to the UCL community. Speakers include Professor Gloria Laycock and Dr Ruth Morgan (UCL JDI), Professor Cheryl Thomas (UCL Laws), Roxana Ferllini (UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Professor David Balding (UCL Biosciences). A recent editorial in Nature highlights the need for exactly what the new Centre hopes to achieve.

Anyone actively engaged in forensic work or research or those working in areas linked to forensics are welcome to attend. Please email jdi-forensic-sciences@ucl.ac.uk to register your interest or find out more.”

Images: Getting to grips with fingerprinting and the horses at the forensic showcase


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