This week, we’d like to introduce you to Michaela Regan, a PhD student in the final year of her programme at the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science. Michaela is also one of our highly-skilled team of facilitators at Forensic Outreach.
Here, she shares her experiences, stories and research. Read on to find her top tips for pursuing a career in forensic science.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I am an outgoing, energetic and highly-sociable individual with a great passion for what I do.
Describe your current work and research.
I am currently doing my PhD in forensic science where I am looking at how we communicate the complexity of forensic interpretation to the stakeholders of the court using gunshot residue [GSR] as an example. This sounds complicated but I basically have been looking into the distribution of GSR on the clothing of bystanders and found it to be quite variable. I am now looking into how we communicate the scientific work we undertake to lawyers, jurors and judges who do not have a scientific background but need to assess the strength of the results presented to them.
What inspired you to join this field?
When I was deciding what subject to study for my undergraduate [degree], I wasn’t sure which subject to study but I knew I really enjoyed the sciences – particularly biology and chemistry. I researched different subjects and found forensic science was a good option as it offers a combination of chemistry, biology, maths, physics and law. During my degree, I ended up loving the field and wanting to stay in it. Then during my MRes, I learnt more about the current issues within forensic science and have found the research I undertake very rewarding.
Describe your education and career trajectory to this point.
I did an Undergraduate Masters at the University of Kent. Afterwards, I came to UCL in London where I did a programme at the Department of Security and Crime science, which is a 1-year MRes and then a 3-year PhD. I am now currently in my last 10 months of my PhD and even though it has been a lot of work, I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tell us a story of something interesting you’ve worked on.
I can’t think of a particular story because I get to work on so many different types of experiences. I have had to assist with other peoples’ research projects where I have had the opportunity to work with explosives. In my own project, I have had to take courses on firearms and ballistics and my own research which has given me the opportunity to shoot different types of guns. I have gotten to learn about bias and DNA transfer by being a participant. For the DNA transfer study, I got to continuously stab foam blocks. So, I probably have had the most random experiences!
What tips can you provide for people wishing to pursue a career in your field?
I think that if you’re interested in the field and about to choose a course for your undergraduate I would recommend doing a pure science undergraduate degree and then an MSc in forensic science afterwards. This allows you to keep all your options open in case you do not enjoy the subject area and to solidify your scientific foundation further. If you have done an undergraduate degree, then I recommend trying to apply for lab-based work to gain the experience and to read as much of the published literature to widen your knowledge base on the current issues in forensic science.
Your turn: Do you have any questions for Michaela or our team? Leave them here.