Forensic Science

Forensic Science - MSc

Open Event - 23 February

Join our next Postgraduate Open Event on 23 February to find out why you belong at Kent. You can choose to visit us in-person, or attend virtually.

This programme is for graduates with a strong grounding in forensic science or chemistry-related subjects who wish to advance their knowledge of the field.

Overview

It prepares you for a professional role in forensic science within the criminal or civil judicial system, police or forensic practice, or research. You develop command, control and management skills that will enable you to present expert evidential incident reports to the highest standard at court.

You also develop your knowledge and understanding of advanced laboratory analytical methods applied to forensic investigation. This enables you to select the most appropriate analytical techniques for forensic investigation and to use a wide range of advanced analytic apparatus to evidential standards.

This programme helps you to develop an integrated and critical understanding of forensic science to prepare you to undertake professional forensic-related roles or a PhD in any associated discipline.

About The School of Physical Sciences

The School offers postgraduate students the opportunity to participate in ground-breaking science in the realms of physics, chemistry, forensics and astronomy. With strong international reputations, our staff provide plausible ideas, well-designed projects, research training and enthusiasm within a stimulating environment. Recent investment in modern laboratory equipment and computational facilities accelerates the research.

Our principal research covers a wide variety of topics, theoretical, experimental and applied – you can see a list of example topics on our available research projects page. We also offer taught programmes in Forensic Science, studied over one year full-time, and a two-year European-style Master’s in Physics (one year taught, one year research).

Entry requirements

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You are more than your grades

For 2022, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Entry requirements

A first or second class honours degree in forensic science or a forensic-related subject.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

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Course structure

Duration: 1 year full-time

The programme provides a broad and balanced foundation of the science and law that underpins forensic practice and methodology in modern society.

This includes detailed knowledge of the physical techniques and methods of assay, analysis and examination used by forensic scientists, together with the essential chemical and biological knowledge required for understanding forensic evidence and its presentation.

Please note that it is compulsory for students to register and attend from the beginning of the first week of the academic year, for Health and Safety training. Laboratory work cannot take place until training has been completed.

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Compulsory modules currently include

Students will develop a number of skills related to the investigation and planning of research such as analytical skills, critical thinking and ability to understand and communicate scientific information in graphically. Students will learn how to search and retrieve information from a variety of locations (colloquia, websites, journals, proceedings etc). They will learn how to compile professionally-produced scientific documents such as colloquia reports, posters and applications for funding of future research activities/research job applications. The Group research investigation strengthens these skills, adding experience of working in a team.

Find out more about PSCI7000

This module enables students from a variety of backgrounds (e.g. graduates in Forensic Science, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Forensic Biology etc.) to develop their expertise within selected areas of forensic science. Areas for development (e.g. crime scene analysis, ballistics, drug analysis, face recognition, DNA, etc.) will be identified during an initial meeting of the module convenor with each student.

Students will then be assigned a supervisor in the appropriate area who will guide them towards appropriate learning resources such as lecture and practical materials within the School's portfolio of modules, textbooks and research journals, as well as providing tutorial guidance throughout the module. Guidance will be also given in preparing the dissertation and the presentation. Students will be expected to present verbally, and in writing, the background and advances (focussing on the last ten years) in their selected area of expertise.

Find out more about PSCI7020

One-on-one meetings and group tutorials focused on academic progression and the development of key skills to support the core curriculum and future study or employment. Students meet with their Academic Advisor individually or in groups at intervals during the academic year. Individual meetings review academic progress, support career planning etc. Themed tutorials develop transferable skills; The tutorials are informal involving student activity and discussion. Year group events deliver general information e.g. on University resources, 4-year programmes, module selection etc.

Find out more about PSCI7030

Elements of synthetic organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry which are relevant to substances of abuse.

The theoretical chemistry and principles of analysis and identification of several substances that are substances of abuse. The following are indicative:

Amphetamines and related compounds

LSD and related compounds

Cannabis and Cannabis products

Opiate compounds

Cocaine and related compounds

Certain controlled pharmaceutical drugs

Find out more about PSCI7130

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 (PSCI7400 and CHEM7400) 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.

Find out more about PSCI7200

Optional modules may include

This module will cover the following topics:

Evidential practice and law in relation to location, recovery, preservation, and interpretation of a wide range of forensic samples.

Statement and report writing to evidential standard.

Incident assessment and management in a wide variety of forensic environments.

Location, recovery and preservation of a range of forensic samples.

Incident mapping and photography.

Document and forgery analysis.

Modern and emerging forensic techniques

Find out more about PSCI5010

Physics and chemistry of fires and explosions:

Fire and arson – occurrence and importance. Combustion – definitions. Thermodynamics and enthalpy. Flammability limits, flash point, fire point, ignition temperature. Pyrolysis of wood and plastics. Fuels and accelerants. Propagation and spread of fires. Sampling and laboratory analysis of fire scene residues.

Explosions – definitions. Vapour phase and condensed phase explosions. Detonation and deflagration. High and low explosives. Primary and secondary high explosives. Molecular design of explosives. Survey of important explosives. Stoichiometry, oxygen balance, gas volumes, thermodynamics and enthalpy. Sampling and laboratory analysis of explosives residues. Preventative detection of explosives in contexts such as airports.

Fires:

Fire dynamics. Propagation and spread of fires – flames, fire types, flashover. Fire investigation. Forensic Science Service procedures at the scene. Damage observation and assessment. Fire and smoke patterns. Sources of ignition. Injuries and fatalities. Evidence recovery: sampling and laboratory analysis. Establishing the origin: the seat of the fire. Finding the cause: natural, accidental, negligent or deliberate? Indicators of arson. Evidence procedures. Case studies.

Explosions:

Control of the explosion scene and procedures for recovery of evidence. Damage observation and assessment. The work of the Forensic Explosives Laboratory. Identification of explosives: organics and inorganics. Bulk analysis. Trace analysis of explosives: recovery, extraction and analysis of samples. Physical evidence: detonators. Preventative detection. Precursor identification. Explosives evidence in court: legal definitions and procedures. Terrorism. Case studies.

Find out more about PSCI6010

Chemists and physicists are now playing an important role in the growing field of materials research. More recently, there has been a growing interest, driven by technological needs, in materials with specific functions and this requires a combination of physics and chemistry. For example, new materials are needed for the optics and electronics industry (glasses and semiconductors). The aim of this module is to introduce students to this area of modern materials and associated techniques. Examples of the topics that might typically be covered are: Crystals and crystallography; Molecular materials; Glasses; Magnetism and Magnetic Materials; Multiferroics; X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS).

Find out more about PSCI6040

The module lectures will cover the following topics:

• Historical methods

• DNA sample collection, processing and storage

• DNA theory

• DNA databases and statistical interpretation

• Quality Assurance, management and control

• Legal aspects

• Forensic case studies

• Future trends

Find out more about PSCI6370

The module will cover incident management from a tactical/regional and national/ strategic perspective using the four stage model: Identification, preparation, mitigation, and recovery.

A range of actual and potential incidents will be covered including air accident, marine accident, rail and road incident, terrorist attacks, and industrial and chemical incidents.

This will be achieved using lectures, critical evaluation of case studies, and real time simulated incident exercises.

Students will be required to examine all aspects of scene and major incident management, disaster planning. This will encompass emergency management, damage limitation, evacuation plans, logistical support, inter-agency operation and cooperation, and personnel management.

In addition to the process-driven content above, students will further study the relevant science behind some of the major incident types and develop the capability to computer model various aspects of these events. This ultimately provides students with the ability to take a modern, holistic and multidisciplinary scientific approach when interpreting what may have happened during such events.

Find out more about PSCI7040

This module will cover the core principles behind the management and investigation processes that may relate to a range of forensically-relevant incident types. Indicative areas of discussion may include investigation of civil infrastructure incidents, disaster victim identification (DVI), acts of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as well as managing forensic resources over a range of major and smaller incidents.

In addition to the process-driven content above, students will further study the relevant science behind some of the incident types and develop the capability to computer model various aspects of these events. This ultimately provides students with the ability to take a modern, holistic and multidisciplinary scientific approach when interpreting what may have happened during such events.

Find out more about PSCI7170

Compulsory modules currently include

Students will undertake a project from an available project listing and will work under the guidance of a supervisor. The student will be encouraged to develop some level of research independence within the project remit appropriate of a postgraduate master's student.

The project will be assessed on a number of criteria which will include the project work (the amount, quality etc. appropriate for the level), effort put in by the student, the preparation of a written report and an oral presentation session. The student’s progress will be assessed mid way through the research project through a progress report. This will also involve some degree of forward planning such that the students assess their own project requirements for the following period allowing the student to learn time management and forward planning skills.

Find out more about PSCI7800

Teaching and assessment

Assessment is by examination and coursework.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • develop your integrated and critically aware understanding of forensic science and to prepare you to undertake a PhD in any associated disciplines
  • prepare you for a professional role in forensic science within the criminal or civil judicial system, police, or forensic practice or research                                  
  • develop your command, control, and management skills in relation to major incidents, and to prepare and present expert evidential incident reports at court to the highest standard
  • develop a clear recognition of the constraints and opportunities of the environment in which professional forensic science is carried out
  • develop a variety of Masters’ level intellectual and transferable skills
  • equip you with the learning skills to keep abreast of developments in the continually evolving field of forensic science and forensic investigation
  • enable you to realise your academic potential.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding in areas such as:

  • advanced theory, concepts, and practice in relation to laboratory analysis and substances of abuse                                    
  • the command, management, logistics, and forensic implications of major and minor incidents such as air or rail accidents and crime scenes. Emergency and disaster planning, theory, practice, legislation, and implementation                     
  • advance laboratory analytic methods and apparatus as applied to general analysis and forensic investigation
  • the forensic application of DNA analysis, fire investigation, explosives and accelerants.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • critical thinking, reasoning and reflection
  • the ability to recognise and solve forensic-related problems at an advanced level
  • the ability to select the most appropriate techniques for a given analysis and to use a wide range of advanced analytic apparatus to evidential standards
  • the ability to manage personnel and logistics in demanding and highly fluid environments.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the ability to source funding for, plan, and implement research projects
  • the ability to identify, plan for and manage actual and potential threats in a range of environments
  • the ability to prepare and present an incident management report to evidential standards, and to present such reports at court under hostile cross-examination
  • the ability to perform advanced level analysis on a range of apparatus and to document such to evidential standards
  • familiarity and competence to an advanced level in key items of forensic analytic apparatus.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • personal and interpersonal skills, working as a member of a team and as a team leader.
  • effective research costing and planning
  • skills relevant to a career in forensic science (practice or judiciary) and forensic research
  • the ability to learn effectively for the purpose of continuing your professional development
  • the ability to generate, analyse, interpret and present in a range of environments
  • the ability to manage time and resources within an individual project and as a team manager.

Fees

The 2022/23 UK fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9300
  • EU full-time £15900
  • International full-time £21200

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk.

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

Search scholarships

Independent rankings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Physical Sciences was ranked 7th in the UK for research impact and a demonstration of its importance to industry and the public sector.

An impressive 100% of our physics research and 98% of our chemistry research was judged to be of international quality, with 75% physics and 78% of chemistry research judged world-leading or internationally excellent. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.

Research

Research areas

Applied Optics Group (AOG)

The Group’s research focuses on optical sources, optical configurations and signal processing methods for optical measurements and imaging. The Group developed the first en-face OCT image of the eye and now works with national and international institutions to extend OCT capabilities. They also conduct research on coherence gated wavefront sensors and multiple path interferometry, as well as Fast Fourier transformations on graphics cards, supercontinuum sources and fast tunable lasers.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/applied-optics/

Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CAPS)

The group’s research spans observation, experimentation, simulation and modelling. The major topics are star formation, planetary science and early solar system bodies, galactic astronomy and astrobiology. The group uses data from the largest telescopes in the world and in space, such as ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the New Technology Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory. They also use our in-house facilities, including a two-stage light gas gun for impact studies.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/caps/

Forensic Imaging Group (FIG)

The Group’s research has an applied focus. They explore mathematical and computational techniques and employ a wide variety of image processing and analysis methods for applications in many areas, including forensics and cyber security. The Group holds major grant funding from EPSRC. It has spawned a very successful spin-out company, Visionmetric Ltd, and was central to the School’s excellent REF 2014 rating for impact; placing the School equal 7th nationally in this category.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/fig/

Functional Materials Group (FMG)

Research in the multi-disciplinary FMG encompasses the synthesis, characterisation, theory and computer modelling of cutting-edge materials. Researcher are interested in finding new optical, mechanical, electronic, magnetic or biological properties that challenge present understanding or can give rise to new innovative technologies. The Group is unique nationwide in that it integrates both physicists and chemists, and its research benefits from this exchange of ideas and expertise.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/fmg/

Careers

All programmes in the School of Physical Sciences equip you with the tools you need to conduct research, solve problems, communicate effectively and transfer skills to the workplace, which means our graduates are always in high demand. Our links with industry not only provide you with the opportunity to gain work experience during your degree, but also equip you with the general and specialist skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workplace.

Typical employment destinations for graduates from the physics programmes include power companies, aerospace, defence, optoelectronics and medical industries. Typical employment destinations for graduates from our forensic science and chemistry programmes include government agencies, consultancies, emergency services, laboratories, research or academia.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The University has good facilities for modern research in physical sciences. These include: NMR spectrometers; powder X-ray diffractometers; X-ray fluorescence; atomic emission spectrometry; gel-permeation, gas, analytical and preparative high-performance liquid chromatography; mass spectrometry; scanning electron microscopy and EDX. We also have various microscopes, differential scanning calorimetry and thermal gravimetric analysis, dionex analysis of anions and automated CHN analysis. For planetary science impact studies, there is a two-stage light gas gun.

Interdisciplinary approach

Much of the School's work is interdisciplinary and we have successful collaborative projects with members of the Schools of Biosciences, Computing and Engineering and Digital Arts at Kent, as well as an extensive network of international collaborations.

National and international links

The School is a leading partner in the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), and benefits from £2.5 million of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The School has collaborations with universities around the world, particularly in Germany, France, Italy and the USA. UK links include King's College, London and St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Our industrial partners include BAE Systems, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Ophthalmic Technology Inc, Canada. We also have collaborations with NASA, European Southern Observatory (ESO) and European Space Agency (ESA) scientists.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: NatureScience; Forensic Science International, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine; Astrophysical JournalJournal of Polymer ScienceJournal of Materials Chemistry; and Applied Optics.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

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Learn more about the applications process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

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