Module Spotlight: Solving the Crime Scene
Turning the classroom into a CSI crime scene for hands-on learning
Dr Stuart Black uses his research expertise in isotopic analysis and the experience gained through years of working with industry and the police to teach the popular Forensic Archaeology and Crime Scene Analysis module. Students learn crime scene investigation techniques to make the practicals feel like exciting CSI work, with Stuart conveying scientific concepts through storytelling to bring the topics to life.
"If you think about the scenario where we have two soil samples and we're going to chemically analyse them and compare them statistically - that can be a really dull exercise. If you put one of them on the bottom of somebody's shoe and one of them at a crime scene, suddenly that becomes a really interesting idea. It's a vehicle for teaching the science and pushing students' interests and career aspirations - there's a narrative to the reason why they're doing it.”
Drawing on real life cases
Using his experience of working in consultancy with police forces, Stuart uses real case examples all the way through the module to show students how to approach particular areas and methods.
"We do approaches to things like my research area - looking at isotopes, and using it to investigate timescales and climate signals, but also to investigate provenancing and sourcing materials. That's very important from a forensic point of view. If you have a material that is generic to a crime scene, if you can then provenance it and source it to a location or type, that becomes very important and valuable evidence."
using science to solve crimes
The Forensic Analysis module is broken up by a series of lectures followed by a series of practicals. In the practicals, Stuart invents a crime and the students dress up in forensic suits and do scene examinations at three different crime scenes. They collect the materials and the evidence, bag it, and then analyse it in the lab to solve the mystery.