UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences



The MSc in Crime and Forensic Science is a unique programme in the UK, focusing as it does on forensic science within a holistic crime science framework. Many of our graduates have gone on to work for the police, the National Crime Agency and other organisations directly related to crime investigation and prevention. Others have gone on to do research in forensic science or pursue further studies in forensic science and the law. We run extra-curricular seminars during term-time and invite speakers from academia and industry to give their perspectives on current forensic science research and practice. We have developed and deliver our crime scene investigation module with input from major UK police forces.

I really enjoy the CFS seminars on Thursdays…because we discuss very relevant, important and interesting issues about the field and we learn so many interesting things regarding the discipline that we may otherwise not learn purely from the course material. (MSc Crime & Forensic Science 2014)
The Crime Scene Investigation module was a lot of fun! (MSc Crime & Forensic Science 2013) 
The course had a wide variety of modules to choose from - I particularly enjoyed creating and designing a research project for my dissertation. (MSc Crime & Forensic Science 2013)

Core modules

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.

Law 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 special judicial guest seminars.

This is a compulsory module 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.

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.

Optional modules

Forensic evidence

Frontiers in 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. *Prerequisites are required.

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. *Prerequisites are required.

Forensic biology and DNA interpretation*

This module will introduce students to key interpretation concepts within forensic biology topics, such as body fluid detection, human DNA profiling, wildlife forensic science, forensic microbiology, and DNA applications in environmental science.  Students will learn how to interpret human DNA profiles and evaluate biological evidence within varied case contexts, culminating in the production of a written court report.  The module will also explore emerging technological advances that have implications for the future of forensic biology and the interpretation of biological evidence.  Assessment is by submission of the court report and by unseen examination.

This module is optional and worth 15 credits. *Prerequisites are required.

Forensic anthropology*

This module provides an introduction and background to forensic anthropology and related fields, and their application in forensic science/crime scene investigations. Students are introduced to key concepts including: scene of crime management and anthropological intervention; police procedures and the forensic anthropologist; anthropological 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. *Prerequisites are required.

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.

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.

Law and the interpretation of evidence

Case assessment and interpretation

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 is 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.

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. *Prerequisites are required.

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.

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 has been developed with input from major London police forces and students will have the opportunity to engage with professionals and benefit from their expertise.  The course also features expert witness training with Bond Solon.

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