Published: 13 July 2016

Surrey helps Home Office create forensic map of UK

The Home Office was so impressed by a recent PhD presentation on fingerprint research, it has asked the Department of Chemistry to assist in developing a ‘forensic research map’ of the UK.

Dr Melanie Bailey of the Department of Chemistry is working with the Home Office to develop the map, which will be a comprehensive summary of forensic science research carried out around the UK, following a visit by PhD students Catia Costa and Mahado Ismail to a Home Office research exhibition on policing and crime prevention.

The exhibition, on 16 June, enabled early career researchers to present their research to representatives from police associations as well as policy makers and Home Office staff.

Catia’s presentation focused on a research project led by the University of Surrey which has demonstrated a new, non-invasive test – based on an analytical chemistry technique known as mass spectrometry – capable of detecting cocaine use through a simple fingerprint. Mahado presented the University’s work on fingerprint imaging and its contribution to the Home Office fingerprint development book, a publication distributed to police forces worldwide which explains methods for enhancing fingerprints.

Following the exhibition, Dr Bailey was approached by Professor Bernard Silverman, the Home Office’s Chief Scientific Adviser, who is putting together a series of in-depth surveys into relevant current research in forensics, the first of which will focus on fingerprints. Dr Bailey is now assisting Professor Silverman in developing the research map.

Catia says, “I think the beauty of this area of research at Surrey is the fact that it is so novel. Fingerprints have so far only been used for identification, and I think our work in this area, led by Dr Bailey, has brought us so much further than we were five years ago. While drug testing is one important use, the mass spectrometry technique developed here has the potential for many other uses such as biomedical applications.”

Dr Bailey says, “It is fantastic to have the opportunity to help shape forensic policy of the future and we are very excited about the possibilities.”

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