Emma Street

Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods MSc

I couldn’t be happier with my result. The experience was brilliant and I’m so glad I did it.

Why did you choose to study the Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods MSc?

I did my undergraduate BSc in Anthropology at Kent a few years ago and while I was there I fell in love with osteology. I’d assumed the social side of anthropology would excite me more but I actually found osteology fascinating and the access to the collection of medieval skeletons made it all the more exciting. As soon as I heard about the new MSc programme, I immediately got in touch with the School to find out more. Even though it was clear that it would be challenging and hard work, I knew that I had to do it because it sounded so exciting and I knew it would be a great way to increase my knowledge and improve my career opportunities.

How did your Master’s studies build on your undergraduate degree?

Having focused on osteology in my undergraduate dissertation, I had a foundation in the subject but the MSc enabled me to study it in much greater depth and has given me the confidence to use my knowledge as I build my career. It also meant that I got to spend a lot of time in the lab working closely with the skeletal collection, something that I thoroughly enjoyed. Through the MSc, I also learned about creating a biological profile for the living as well as the dead, the methods of finding and excavating clandestine graves and the basic methodologies of forensic investigation.

What aspects of the course did you particularly enjoy?

I loved the fact that the lab was open to us every weekday and that we were trusted to work independently with the skeletal collection. I enjoyed working in the lab so I spent as much time as possible in there. I also found the excavation project really exciting, as I had done nothing like it before. Even though the weather was terrible, the excavation of a skeleton was fascinating and we learned how to create our own cordons around the scene.

What did you explore in your dissertation?

My dissertation examined the structural relationship between the cortical bone and the histomorphometry of the human radius. Most of my research focused on bone histology and I was able to identify that a significant relationship was present between the bone size and the behaviour of the cells within. I also determined that the radius seems to develop in a very different manner from the femur, which was an unexpected result. Once my supervisors had taught me the basics of using the microscopes in the lab I was able to conduct my research independently, though I also loved the collaboration with my supervisors and, while it was difficult working so hard over the summer, I’m really proud of the work I produced and hope to build on it in the future.

What did you think of the teaching and wider academic support?

Independent learning was the primary goal of the MSc but all the information and resources that could have been needed were provided by the lecturers and the graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). They gave us incredible support, from one of our GTAs giving up his weekend to devise and run mock bone quizzes for us before the real assessments, to the support and encouragement I personally received from my lecturers as I applied for a PhD and other job opportunities. One of my GTAs, along with one of my colleagues, even took me through a practice interview as I prepared to face the selection board for a PhD scholarship. We all knew that if we needed to talk to any of our lecturers about our academic work or personal matters, their door was always open to us.

What did you think of the facilities?

Our access to the Osteology lab and the skeletal collection was invaluable to me throughout the course. Also, I spent a huge amount of time in the library, which has expanded since my time as an undergrad. I love the new layout and found it to be one of the best places on campus to focus on my work. I also spent a lot of time in the gym on campus, and when I needed a break there are so many cafes and restaurants that I rarely had to go into town.

What were the other students like?

On the first day, we created a group chat and used it throughout the year when we needed advice and encouragement. Everyone was incredibly supportive and I have made friends that will last a lifetime. I was also able to get advice on the modules in which I had no background as there were forensic scientists and archaeologists on the course who were happy to share their knowledge, and I hope that I was able to help them with my knowledge of osteology. We all worked together to help each other get the marks we needed.

What are your career plans and how do you think your Master’s will help you to fulfil them?

I received an offer to continue to a PhD but have deferred for a year to gain more of a foundation in commercial osteoarchaeology, though I hope to continue my research into bone histology. Before I did this MSc, I had a job in IT and didn’t know how to break into the field of osteology. Now I have the perfect foundation to develop a career focusing on what I want to do and I’m very excited for what the future holds.