Leading the Way in the Forensics World

 Students from Bournemouth University’s (BU) School of Applied Sciences are leading the way in international research in forensics and toxicology.

BU’s presence has become increasingly integral to this ground-breaking research field as students share their pioneering findings at global conferences.

In the past year postgraduate students have presented in four countries including Chicago and Virginia in the US, Germany, England and Scotland. Here they shared their research findings to the benefit of police forces, hospitals, coroners’ laboratories, sports doping laboratories, pharmacologists, pharmacists and toxicologists.

BU PhD student Hannah Bunten received $2000 to share her research into methadone susceptibility at the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) conference in Richmond, Virginia in October 2010. Hannah has been working for the last three years to investigate whether gene variations can affect how different people respond to this drug. Her results show that during post mortem tests, there was a higher concentration of methadone in subjects with a particular variation of the metabolism gene CYP2B6.

Hannah said: “I was chosen for the SOFT research award because of these findings. The results from the study are the first to find this association between methadone and CYP2B6 and OPRM1 and will hopefully advance the use of pharmacogenomics in cases of drug-related deaths.”

Last month BU MSc graduate and current PhD student Poppy McLaughlin was invited to the French Society of Toxicology in Chamonix. She delivered findings of her investigation alongside the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Dundee, developing methods for the near-body testing of drug presence. Currently, coroners are reluctant to allow for invasive tissue samples to be taken unless there is an apparent drug presence. Poppy’s research indicates that coroners and pathologists may be able to avoid these measures by combining body-scanning and small biopsy samples to avoid invasiveness.

Poppy’s supervisor, Bournemouth University’s Professor David Osselton believes the research “has a huge societal impact”, as it would facilitate post-mortem examinations amongst faiths that do not currently use this procedure due to invasive methods. The influence of drugs in these cases does not necessarily refer to illicit substances, but also prescription medication.

Poppy’s presentation at Chamonix in March was her fifth delivery of research results to the forensic community, having previously been invited to the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists Conference in August 2010, alongside fellow student Eva Reichardt.

Eva shared two research areas – her findings on the accuracy of using oral fluid in drug testing, and her examination the purity of street ketamine collected from amnesty bins in London in 2007.

Most recently BU students have returned from presenting to field specialists at the Annual Conference of the United Kingdom and Ireland Association of Forensic Toxicologists (ACUKIAFT) in Glasgow, the Society of Forensic Toxicologists in Virginia and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Chicago.