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UCL Department of Security and Crime Science

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Postgraduate research

Our postgraduate research programmes are conducted by UCL SECReT, the first centre for PhD training in security and crime science in Europe

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We offer the most comprehensive integrated PhD programme for students wishing to pursue multidisciplinary security or crime-related research degrees.

We recruit our doctoral students from a range of scientific backgrounds to pursue research in crime or security domains across the engineering and social sciences.

Students can enter through various funding routes (self-funded, industry sponsors, scholarships).

Areas of study

Before applying for one of our programmes, it's important to make contact with a potential supervisor who's an expert in your subject:

Design and Technology

SECReT is an ideal place for scientific students looking to apply their expertise to the design and evaluation of crime prevention and security measures. Collaborating with several other UCL departments, we provide a comprehensive training to support the emergence of new materials, sensors, and algorithms for security applications.

With a focus on technological innovation and a powerful network of external partners, our environment has helped many researchers in physics, chemistry, electronic engineering and computer science appreciate how to maximize the impact of their work:

Chemical sensors

In collaboration with the UCL Department of Chemistry, SECReT students have been involved in the development of sensors and analytical devices for the detection of explosives, narcotics, and biological agents. Recent PhD projects have included metal oxide semiconducting gas sensors and n-p semiconducting heterojunction sensors. 

Potential supervisors

Prof Ivan Parkin
Head of the materials and inorganic chemistry research group
UCL Department of Chemistry 

PhD Projects

  • An array of n-p semiconducting heterojunction sensors used as a tool for explosive detection, Lauren Horsfall
  • Metal oxide semiconductor gas sensors as an electronic nose for the detection of microbial agents, Emma Newton
  • The detection of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories using semiconducting metal oxide sensor technologies,  David Pugh
  • Assessing the potential of metal oxide semiconducting gas sensors for illicit drug detection, Paula Tartellin
Cybersecurity

Computer security is becoming of increasing importance to society, companies, and governments. UCL academics are performing cutting edge research in many aspects of computer security: from the very foundation of secure communications (cryptography), to the development of privacy enhancing technologies, to researching techniques that counter malicious activity on the Internet. 

In the interdisciplinary spirit that characterizes SECReT, much of this research covers aspects that go beyond the purely technical ones, such as human factors and usability and the prevention of cybercrime through a deep understanding of this criminal ecosystem.

Potential supervisors

Dr David Clark
Senior Lecturer in Software Systems Engineering, UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Nicolas Courtois
Senior Lecturer in Cryptology, UCL Department of Computer Science
Prof Jens Groth
Lecturer in Cryptography, UCL Department of Computer Science
Prof Steve Hailes
UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Sarah Meiklejohn
Lecturer in Security and Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science / UCL Department of Computer Science
Prof David Pym
UCL Department of Computer Science
Prof Angela Sasse
Professor of Human-Centred Technology, UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Gianluca Stringhini
Lecturer in Security and Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science / UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Shi Zhou
Lecturer in Complex Networks, UCL Department of Computer Science'

PhD Projects

  • An array of n-p semiconducting heterojunction sensors used as a tool for explosive detection, Lauren Horsfall
  • Metal oxide semiconductor gas sensors as an electronic nose for the detection of microbial agents, Emma Newton
  • The detection of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories using semiconducting metal oxide sensor technologies, David Pugh
  • Assessing the potential of metal oxide semiconducting gas sensors for illicit drug detection, Paula Tartellin
Ethics and technology

Students working in the field of ethics and technology have collaborated with the UCL Department of Computer Science.

Potential supervisors

Prof Anthony Finkelstein
Professor of Software Systems Engineering, UCL Department of Computer Science
Prof Angela Sasse
Professor of Human-Centred Technology, UCL Department of Computer Science

PhD Projects

  • Developing tools for anticipating and mitigating the negative societal impact, while preserving the positive impact, of security technologies for use by the developers of these technologies upstream in the design process, Timothy Nissen
Radar

Research areas: radar systems and signal processing, including bistatic and netted radar; multifunction phased array radar; waveform design; synthetic aperture radar; non-co-operative target recognition; sonar signal processing; and synthetic aperture sonar.

Potential supervisors

Prof Paul Brennan
Professor of Microwave Electronics, Dept of Electronic & Electrical Eng
Dr Kevin Chetty
Senior Lecturer, Dept of Security and Crime Science
Prof Hugh Griffiths
Thales UK/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair of Radio Frequency Sensor Systems, Dept of Electronic & Electrical Eng
Prof Karl Woodbridge
Professor of Electronic Engineering, Dept of Electronic & Electrical Eng

PhD Projects

  • Landmine, IED, UXO Detection using Ground Penetrating Radar from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Amin Amiri
UAVs

Micro and small UAVs (UAVs) are now widely available. They are highly versatile, and are used by members of the public, law enforcement agencies and criminals. Many UCL students have had the opportunity to carry out research involving the development or application of UAVs. 

Potential supervisors

Dr Hervé Borrion
UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Simon Julier
UCL Department of Computer Science

PhD Projects

  • Landmine, IED, UXO Detection using ground penetrating radar from an unmanned aerial vehicle, Amin Amiri
  • An Experimental Study Evaluating the Detection of Snares in UAV Images, Dorothea Delpech
X-ray scanners

The low false alarm rate of X-ray diffraction, combined with the reduced need for manual inspections, can dramatically improve screening effectiveness and detection performance. It is hoped that the present work conducted at SECReT will lead to the next generation of cargo imaging systems.

Potential supervisors

Dr Lewis Griffin
Senior Lecturer in Vision and Imaging Sciences, UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Ryan Nichol
Lecturer in High Energy Physics, UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy
Prof Robert Speller
Head of Radiation Physics Group, UCL Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering

PhD Projects

  • Landmine, IED, UXO Detection using ground penetrating radar from an unmanned aerial vehicle, Amin Amiri
  • An Experimental Study Evaluating the Detection of Snares in UAV Images, Dorothea Delpech

Crime and Security

SECReT students are renowned for conducting internationally leading research explaining how crime events occur and affect complex systems in the physical world or cyberspace. Their work focuses on understanding what influence criminals’ decision making, the patterning of crime events in time and space, crime reporting, intelligence analysis and security operations, and directly informs the design of prevention policies and security measures.

In this research strand, students typically come from political science, crime science, psychology, geography, computer science, statistics and mathematics. During their PhD, they develop a strong theoretical knowledge in social/behavioural sciences along with advanced skills for complex systems analysis:

Big data analysis

Potential supervisors

Dr Spencer Chainey
Associate Professor, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science

Dr Tao Cheng
Lecturer in GIS, UCL Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geomatic Engineering
Prof Anthony Finkelstein
Professor of Software Systems Engineering, UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Anthony Hunter
Reader in Intelligent Systems, UCL Department of Computer Science
Prof Paul Longley
Professor of Geographic Information Science, UCL Department of Geography
Dr James Nelson
Lecturer in Statistics, UCL Department of Statistical Science
Prof. John Shawe-Taylor
Professor of Computational Statistics and Machine Learning, UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Jinghao Xue
Lecturer in Statistics, UCL Department of Statistical Science
Dr Jun Wang
Lecturer in Information Retrieval and Intelligent Systems, UCL Department of Computer Science

PhD Projects

  • Twitter as a population representation: Inferring human behaviour and activity in time and space through social media, Alistair Leak
  • Crime drop in Chile: Searching for causes and mechanisms, Hugo Soto
  • Towards the situational prevention of organised crimes: Extortion victimisation of Mexican businesses, Patricio Estevez Soto
Ecological modelling

Potential supervisors

Dr Hervé  Borrion
UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Prof Kate Bowers
Professor in Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Spencer Chainey
Associate Professor, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Prof Shane Johnson
Professor in Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Simon Julier
UCL Department of Computer Science

PhD Projects

  • Numerical modelling, empirical analysis of civil conflict, Lucy Burton
  • Spatio-temporal patterns of terrorism, Stephen Tench
  • What are the factors that make communities vulnerable to, or resistant against, the emergence of radicalising settings? Amy Thornton

Resources

The UCL Agent-Based Modelling group is managed by SECReT students, and offers a friendly and vibrant environment to learn this powerful research technique.

Further information

Lemieux, A. M. (Ed.). (2014). Situational Crime Prevention of Poaching. Routledge.

Geographical analysis

Many crimes involve an important geographic component and a greater understanding of why certain crimes happen in certain places and at certain times can help prevent them in the future. This can be accomplished through the use of geospatial analyses, which apply (often unique and complex) statistical techniques to geographic spaces.

 

Potential supervisors

Dr Spencer Chainey
Associate Professor, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science

Prof Tao Cheng
Lecturer in GIS, UCL Department of Civil and Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
Dr James Cheshire
Lecturer, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis
Nicola Christie
Senior Lecturer in Transport Studies, UCL Department of Civil and Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
Prof Muki Haklay
Senior Lecturer in GIS, UCL Department of Civil and Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
Prof Shane Johnson
Professor in Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Prof. Paul Longley
Professor of Geographic Information Science, UCL Department of Geography
Dr Mirco Musolesi
Reader in Data Science, UCL Department of Geography. Leads the Intelligent Social System Lab
Dr Jun Wang
Lecturer in Information Retrieval and Intelligent Systems, UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Jinghao Xue
Lecturer in Statistics, UCL Department of Statistical Science

PhD Projects

  • Understanding and preventing criminal disruption of infrastructure networks, focusing on railway disruption, Matthew Ashby
  • Spatial decision making of terrorist target selection Zoe Marchment
  • Complex systems approaches to issues in crime and security Toby Davies
  • Money laundering - How do criminals handle their ill-gotten revenues and what can we do about it? Florian Hetzel
  • Modelling and Optimising Police Patrol, Oliver Hutt
  • Using smartphone applications to record real-time, spatially located information from large groups of people about their perceptions of safety (fear of crime) in the built environment (London), Reka Solymosi 
  • How new ways of spatial analysis can improve the geographical understanding of illegal drug markets and the distribution of drug-related crime, Lusine Tarkhanyan

See also

  • Dr Anthony Steed
  • Dr Shi Zhou
  • Prof. Benjamin Heydecker
  • Dr Paul Densham
  • Prof. Matthew Gandy
  • Dr Pablo Mateos
  • Dr Andrew Harris
  • Dr James Kneale
  • Dr Alan Latham
  • Dr Joann McGregor
  • Dr Ruth Panelli
  • Dr Charlotte Lemanski
  • Prof. Frank Smith
  • Dr John Curtis
  • Mr Xiang Ye
  • Dr Robert Bowles
Human error analysis

SECReT students working in the field of human error analysis have collaborated with the UCL Department of Computer Science, with recent projects considering the implications of human error within the contexts of cybersecurity, intelligence analysis, and metro rail network safety procedures.    

 

Potential supervisors

Dr Hervé Borrion 
UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Spencer Chainey
Associate Professor, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Prof Angela Sasse
Professor of Human-Centred Technology, UCL Department of Computer Science
Dr Jun Wang
Lecturer in Information Retrieval and Intelligent Systems, UCL Department of Computer Science

PhD Projects

  • Automatically identifying causes of security non-compliance through sentiment analysis, Ingolf Becker
  • Experiential bias in intelligence analysis, Mohamed Gaballa
  • Engineering IT risk awareness, education and training, Iacovos Kirlappos
  • Towards a usable and less disruptive security in the workplace, Kat Krol
  • Increasing Efficiency of Security Procedures to Detect Explosives on Metro Rail Networks through Analysis of Human Errors, Kartikeya Tripathi
Scripting and processing analysis

Crime scripts and security scripts are two technical terms that refer to the procedural aspects of crime and security operations. These models are routinely generated to describe sequences of events. In recent years, they have become instrumental in understanding offenders' decision-making process and specifying detailed requirements for more effective crime prevention measures.

 

Potential supervisors

Dr Hervé  Borrion 
UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Noémie Bouhana
Lecturer in Security and Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Prof Kate Bowers
Professor of Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Spencer Chainey
Associate Professor, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Paul Gill
Lecturer in Security and Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Prof Shane Johnson
Professor in Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Prof Richard Wortley
Professor of Crime Science, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science

PhD Projects

  • Improving the understanding of and responses to internal child sex trafficking in the UK: An empirical multi-method analysis, Ella Cockbain

Selected publications

Social network analysis

Potential supervisors

Dr Hervé  Borrion 
UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Spencer Chainey
Associate Professor, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science
Dr Paul Gill
UCL Department of Security and Crime Science

PhD Projects

  • Detecting and Mitigating Sybil Attacks, Cerys Bradley
  • Mathematical modelling to establish the effectiveness of countermeasures to radicalisation, Rosemary Penny
  • Migrant networks, policy and decision-making, Miranda Simon
  • Resilience of criminal organisations, Sanaz Zolghadriha

Forensic Science

Forensic science is a dynamic discipline that is increasingly providing solutions to many problems faced in the detection and countering of crime and terrorism. Our inherently multidisciplinary and distinctive approach to the forensic sciences incorporates disciplines within the sciences, social sciences and humanities to address all stages of the forensic science process from the crime scene, to the analysis of evidence, the interpretation of those results and their presentation to a court.

All of our research seeks to address the need for empirical evidence bases for developing crime reconstructions. Such research will enable the forensic sciences to continue to make valuable contributions to the national and international justice systems.

The focus of research projects within the forensic sciences broadly fall in two domains:

Trace evidence dynamics

The work undertaken at the Centre for Forensic Sciences covers a range of different types of trace evidence.

PhD projects

Explosive residue: Evaluation and optimisation of detection and sampling procedures 
Nadia-Abdul Karim
 The Importance of Trace Evidence Interpretation for Forensic Reconstruction
Mark Amaral
To what extent can forensic evidence aid in the investigation and prosecution of internal child sex trafficking (ICST)? 
Helen Brayley
Inorganic approaches for the analysis of soils/sediments and discerning mixed provenance samples,
Kelly Cheshire
The transfer, persistence and secondary transfer of gunshot residue (GSR): Implications for crime reconstruction and forensic protocol studied using Bayesian modelling
James French
Analysis of transferred fragrance and its forensic implications
Simona Gherghel
Establishing PMI using NMR 
Saravanan Kanniappan
Exploring the spatial and temporal dynamics of environmental particulate trace evidence 
Emma Levin
Developing analytical Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) techniques for environmentally altered bloodstains; and examining the range and influence of visualisation methods available for BPA presentation in the context of jury decision making,
Hester Miles
The use of gunshot residue as an item of trace evidence 
Michaela Regan
Applications of diatom analysis in forensic geoscience: Developing a new technique for the comparative assessment of trace geological evidence
Kirstie Scott
The role of geoforensic analysis for establishing the journey histories of illicit materials and IEDs,
Beth Wilks
Interpretation of evidence

PhD projects

Decision-making within fingermark quality assessment processes, 
Helen Earwaker
Detection of trace explosives in the wastewater system: Applications for forensic intelligence, 
Sally Gamble
The Chain of Evidence - a critical appraisal of the applicability and validity of forensic research and the usability of forensic evidence, 
Dagmar Heinrich
Is HPLC a useful addition to current Geo-Forensic analytical techniques? 
Georgia McCulloch
The effect of cognitive bias in forensic science, 
Sherry Nakhaeizadeh
The detection and analysis of sharp-force trauma on using 3D-photogrammetry techniques, 
Sian Smith
The use of Bayesian networks to develop frameworks for the interpretation and presentation of forensic evidence, 
Nadine Smit
An investigation into 3D printing of osteological remains: the metrology and ethics of virtual anthropology Rachael Carew

Students have a range of backgrounds and during their PhD they develop a strong understanding of a particular forensic science domain. They will also develop theoretical frameworks to enable more robust inference and interpretation of the significance and weight of intelligence and evidence to be achieved. Key research areas within these domains include:

  • DNA
  • Fingerprints
  • Forensic geoscience (soils, sediments, pollen, diatoms etc.)
  • Trace evidence (Gun Shot Residue, explosives, fibres, paint etc.)
  • Cognitive Forensics (decision making, cognitive issues)
  • Forensic Archaeology and Forensic Anthropology
  • Inference and Interpretation (Bayes Nets, Inductive Logic Programming)

Routes of study

The SECReT programme integrates research, taught elements, and transferable professional skills. Two routes are available; Route A (4 years) and Route B (3 years). We recommend that all applicants apply for Route A, which will provide foundational knowledge prior to beginning your research full-time. You will have an opportunity to start with your research during this foundational year. 

Find out more about the programmes on the UCL prospective students site:

Route A – Security Science MRes + MPhil/PhD

Route B – Security and Crime Science MPhil/PhD 

Scholarships