Advanced Project Laboratory - PS720

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 3)
Autumn and Spring 7 30 (15) DR R Barker checkmark-circle


The module is designed to give students experience of a range of advanced laboratory methods with wide application in the Chemical Industry and modern Forensic Science. These methods will underpin Stage 4 research projects (PS740 and CH740) as well as advanced concepts in the Stage 4 program.

The module will be in two sections. In the first section, taught in the Autumn Term, students will receive training in a range of advanced chemical and physical laboratory methods. This section of the module will be assessed by a report written on each experiment. In the second section, beginning towards the end of the Autumn term and continuing throughout the Spring Term, students will select a topic for an extended self-directed literature review. This will evaluate the available literature on a subject and allow the student to develop critical thinking. This section of the module will be assessed by oral presentation and a written dissertation.
Experiments will include such as (NB this is an illustrative list):

  • Gas chromatography – mass spectrometry
    Important example of modern hyphenated analysis techniques. Used in analysis of accelerant and explosive traces at scenes of fires and explosions, also in analysis of drugs of abuse.

  • Atomic absorption spectroscopy
    Used in the analysis of trace metal content. Experiment to compare flame and graphite furnace methods.

  • NMR spectroscopy
    Universally used in analysis of organic substances. Experiment to manipulate FID curves, to explore peak resolution and detect contaminants in samples such as counterfeit medicines.

  • X-ray fluorescence
    Used in analysis of metal artefacts, including bullet casings and forged coins.

  • X-ray diffraction
    Used in analysis of materials with crystalline lattices, including metals and inorganic explosives residues.

  • Electron microscopy
    SEM, TEM and Electron Probe Microanalysis (EPMA) in the analysis of gunshot and explosives residues.

  • Raman spectroscopy
    Used in forensic analysis of ink pigments, street drugs and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

  • HPLC
    Widely used method of separating and identifying substances in forensic science.

  • UV-visible/fluorescence spectroscopy
    Used in comparison of pigments and paper in questioned documents; also chemical tests for explosives and drugs of abuse.

  • Image processing
    Facial recognition software, signature comparison, and the reconstruction of CCTV images.


    This module appears in the following module collections.

    Contact hours

    8 x 2 hour lectures, Training session 1 x 4 hr
    Workshops 4 x 2 hr, 6 (6 hour) laboratory days.

    This module is expected to occupy 300 total study hours including the contact hours above.


    This is not available as a wild module.

    Method of assessment

    100 % Coursework: The first section of the module will be assessed by a report (1,000 word equivalent) written on each experiment, with detailed analysis of the results obtained in the laboratory. 45% of the marks.
    The project component of the module (55% of marks) will include presentation and dissertation (5,000 words). The presentation will give an oral overview of the planning, experimental work and conclusions in the project. The dissertation will include a detailed account of the measurements made in the laboratory to establish the detection limit of the chosen experimental method, together with a critical literature survey of the application of the method in Forensic Science, including recent casework.

    Indicative reading

    Literature as indicated by the project supervisor.

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    Learning outcomes

    Knowledge and understanding of core scientific physical, biological, and chemical concepts, terminology, theory, units, conventions and laboratory methods in relation to forensic science.

  • Knowledge and understanding of advanced theory, concepts, and practice in the forensic field.
  • Knowledge and understanding of areas of chemistry (including analytical chemistry), numeracy (including data analysis and statistics), forensic investigation and interpretation (including the extraction, analysis, interpretation of physical evidence).
  • Ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of essential facts, concepts, principles and theories relating to the subject and to apply such knowledge and understanding to the solution of qualitative and quantitative problems.
  • Ability to recognise and solve forensic related problems at an advanced level.
  • Ability to recognise and implement good measurement science and practice and commonly used forensic laboratory techniques.
  • Ability to select the most appropriate techniques for a given analysis and to use a wide range of advanced apparatus.
  • Skills in the safe handling of chemical materials, taking into account their physical and chemical properties, including any specific hazards associated with their use and to risk assess such hazards.
  • Skills required for the conduct of standard laboratory procedures involved in analytical work and in the operation of standard forensic instrumentation such as that used for analytical investigations and separation.
  • Ability to interpret data derived from laboratory observations and measurements in terms of their significance and the theory underlying them.
  • Communication skills, covering both written and oral communication.
  • Numeracy and computational skills, including such aspects as error analysis, order-of-magnitude estimations, correct use of units and modes of data presentation.
  • Information-retrieval skills, in relation to primary and secondary information sources, including information retrieval through on-line computer searches.
  • Information-technology skills such as word-processing and spreadsheet use, data-logging and storage, Internet communication, etc.
  • Time-management and organisational skills, as evidenced by the ability to plan and implement efficient and effective modes of working.
  • Skills relevant to a career in forensic science practice and forensic research.


    1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
    2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
    3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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