This programme is for graduates with a strong grounding in forensic science who wish to advance their knowledge of the field.
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 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 here https://www.kent.ac.uk/physical-sciences/prospective/pg-research/available-research-projects.html. 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).
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.
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.
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.
PS601 - Fires and Explosions (15 credits)
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.
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.
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.
Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).
PS637 - DNA Analysis & Interpretation (15 credits)
The module lectures will cover the following topics:
DNA sample collection, processing and storage
DNA databases and statistical interpretation
Quality Assurance, management and control
Forensic case studies
Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).
PS700 - Physical Science Research Planning (15 credits)
Details of the work to be done will be announced by the convenor during the first two weeks of the academic year.
Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).
PS702 - Contemporary and Advanced Issues in Forensic Science (15 credits)
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 Schools 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.
Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).
PS704 - Major Incident Management (15 credits)
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 and related legislation.
This will encompass emergency management and planning legislation, damage limitation, evacuation plans, logistical support, inter-agency operation and cooperation, and personnel management.
Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).
PS713 - Substances of Abuse (15 credits)
o amphetamines and related compounds
o LSD and related compounds
o Cannabis and Cannabis products
o opiate compounds
o cocaine and related compounds
o certain controlled pharmaceutical drugs.
Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).
PS720 - Advanced Forensic Project Laboratory (30 credits)
The module is designed to give students experience of a range of advanced laboratory methods with wide application in modern Forensic Science. These methods will underpin their Stage 4 Forensic Analysis and Incident Management Presentation (PS717) and research project (PS740) modules.
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 one of the methods for an extended self-directed project. This will evaluate the application of the method in Forensic Science, and will include experimental measurements to establish the detection limit of the method in trace analysis. This section of the module will be assessed by oral presentation and written dissertation.
Experiments will include such as (NB this is an illustrative list):
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.
Used in the analysis of trace metal content. Experiment to compare flame and graphite furnace methods.
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.
Used in analysis of metal artefacts, including bullet casings and forged coins.
Used in analysis of materials with crystalline lattices, including metals and inorganic explosives residues.
SEM, TEM and Electron Probe Microanalysis (EPMA) in the analysis of gunshot and explosives residues.
Used in forensic analysis of ink pigments, street drugs and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
Widely used method of separating and identifying substances in forensic science.
Used in comparison of pigments and paper in questioned documents; also chemical tests for explosives and drugs of abuse.
Facial recognition software, signature comparison, and the reconstruction of CCTV images.
Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).
PS780 - MSC Research Project (60 credits)
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 masters 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 students progress will be assessed mid way through the research project through some form of progress report. This will also involve some degree of forward planning such that the students assess their own project requirements for the following term allowing the student to learn time management and forward planning skills.
Credits: 60 credits (30 ECTS credits).
Teaching and Assessment
Assessment is by examination and coursework.
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.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain knowledge and understanding of:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The University has good facilities for modern research in physical sciences. These include: NMR spectrometers; powder X-ray diffractometers; X-ray fluorescence; atomic absorption in flame and graphite furnace mode; 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.
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: Nature; Science; Astrophysical Journal; Journal of Polymer Science; Journal 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.
Minimum 2.1 degree in forensic science or a forensic-related subject.
General entry requirements
Please also see our general entry requirements.
English language entry requirements
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Maria Alfredsson: Senior Lecturer in Theoretical Materials
Quantum-mechanical modelling of clusters, surfaces and solids; inter-atomic potential calculations of defects and grain-boundaries; high pressure and temperature simulations; H-bonding.Profile
Dr Donna Arnold: Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science
Synthesis and characterisation of bulk and nano structured novel multiferroics (materials which exhibit electric and magnetic ordering); enhancement of the ferroelectric and magnetic properties of bismuth ferrite through chemical doping.Profile
Dr Robert E Benfield: Senior Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry
The structure and bonding of metal clusters and nanowires; ordered arrays of metal nanowires contained within mesoporous alumina membranes, and nanoparticles of cobalt.Profile
Dr Stefano C G Biagini: Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry
Ring-opening metathesis polymerisations; complex monomer syntheses; block copolymers, selfassembly, properties and applications; nuclear medicine; unnatural amino acid and peptide syntheses; radiolabelling; nanoparticles; surface modifications on silica magnetite.Profile
Dr Barry Blight: Lecturer in Chemistry / Forensic Science
The development of chiral porous solids that can transfer chiral information into enantioselective reactivity in catalytic transformations; inorganic photovoltaics (O-PVDs); employing supramolecular polymerisation with new photoactive hydrogen bonding synthons.Profile
Dr Anna Corrias: Reader in Chemistry
Preparation and characterisation of various materials: oxide glasses, amorphous alloys, nanocrystalline alloys, and nanocomposites consisting of metal or metal oxide nanoparticles embedded in a silica matrix.Profile
Dr Stuart Gibson: Lecturer in Forensic Science
Digital image processing with forensic applications; computer vision; interactive evolutionary computation (IEC) and cognitive psychology relating to human facial appearance.Profile
Professor Mark Green: Professor of Materials Chemistry; Head of School
Quantum materials and magnetism: functional material, magnetic materials, superconductors, synthesis, superconducting materials.Profile
Dr Simon Holder: Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry
Synthesis and application of novel polymeric materials; polymerisation of dichlorodiorganosilanes to improve the yields, allowing for the first time the high yield synthesis of a variety of polysilanes at ambient temperatures; synthesis by controlled polymerisations and application of novel copolymers; design and development of novel non-invasive polymer-based optical sensor systems.Profile
Dr Emma McCabe: Lecturer in Chemistry
Materials chemistry and focus on the synthesis; structural characterisation and physical properties of complex transition metal oxides and mixed anion systems; magnetism in solids; inorganic chemistry synthesis; structural characterisation and crystallography, driven by the structure-property relationship and understanding how changes in the composition and structure can be used to tune the physical properties of materials.Profile
Dr Dean Sayle: Reader in Chemistry
Using molecular dynamics (MD) simulation to mirror experiment; ‘simulating synthesis’ at the atomistic level to generate models of nanomaterials spanning nanoparticles to mesoporous architectures, which are then interrogated to predict a variety of physical, chemical and mechanical properties and associated phenomenon.Profile
Dr Christopher Shepherd: Lecturer in Forensic Science
Ballistics with a particular emphasis on the application of modern techniques to interrogate the wounding potential of different projectiles on the human body for forensic applications.Profile
Dr Christopher Solomon: Reader in Physics
Image processing and reconstruction; facial modelling, encoding and synthesis; facial composites, forensic image analysis.Profile
Professor Michael J Went: Professor of Chemistry and Forensic Science
Chemistry of co-ordinated alkynes; new chelating and macrocyclic ligands with phosphine, thioether and ether donor groups; synthesis of new radiopharmaceuticals; forensic analysis.Profile
Enquire or order a prospectus
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The 2016/17 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
|Forensic Science - MSc at Canterbury:|
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 email@example.com