Lancashire Forensic Science Academy:
One student’s journey!
A collaboration of eager students, passionate academics and inspirational Forensic Scientists and Crime
scene investigators (CSI), the Lancashire Forensic Science Academy (LFSA) is a pioneering scheme between
Lancashire Constabulary and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the Lancashire Police and
Crime Commissioner (PCC). Be it through dissertation projects, CSI shadowing, forensic laboratory
placements or having practitioners teach at UCLan, one of the many aims of the collaboration is to
enhance student experience by providing real-world experience.
Each first year undergraduate who is on a Forensic Science or Policing degree has a one-day shadowing
placements as an observer, to get a taste of what being a CSI is like. Second and third years can apply for
placements ranging from one week to one month long, through written applications and interviews. As
some-one with very limited interview experience, it was reassuring to know that I would get feedback but
still get the real-world experience from the get-go. After two successful, and petrifying, application
processes, I was fortunate enough to secure a CSI and a forensic laboratory placement.
From day one of CSI shadowing, mornings were spent attending volume crime scenes, proving that
Forensic Science, in most cases, is better off being practiced than theorised. Case documents gave you an
insight of what you could expect but, it wasn’t until you arrived at a scene you could fully understand
what you were dealing with. You had to be prepared for every fathomable situation and I was constantly
reminded that “at the end of the day, it’s just you and the van”.
There was a CSI job we went to in a nursery, which was still fully operational when we were there. The
strange men walking round with a torch and a giant metal briefcase (powdering kit) was certainly the
centre of attention as we had children glued to our every move during our search for evidence. Luckily for
us, one clearly defined footwear mark was present and as if like magic to the children was made visible by
powder. The way their eyes lit up and getting perhaps the sincerest thank-you I have received made me
remember the first time I saw these techniques and reminded me why I chose this discipline and how far I
have come. Plus, being called a real-life Batman by someone easily a third of my age was heart-warming.
This was the stand out moment for me; it highlighted the importance of managing the publics
expectations. You are part of the community you are helping, and you are dealing with victims of crime
who may not be in the best frame of mind. How you phrase questions, body language and tone of voice
were all incredibly important; presenting yourself with professionalism and a degree of caring. We could
have easily asked for privacy but engaging with the public is vital for increasing confidence in Forensic
Science and inspiring the next generation of potential Forensic Scientists. In my short time in this
discipline I’ve noticed many misconceptions related to Forensic Science. The ‘CSI effect’ being one of
them, in which I am certain I am not alone in having to tell multiple people “no, it does not work like it
does in television”. This placement demonstrated to me that it is perfectly acceptable to come out of
scene with no evidence if you can display to the aggrieved that you have done your job. Sometimes,
despite what the TV may show, there is no evidence to be found.