Students from BSix – Brook House Sixth Form College – London learned how science is used to solve crime at a CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) science day in March, kick-starting a new strategic partnership between the University and the Hackney-based college.
“The biggest barrier to Higher Education for our students is their own expectations and aspirations,” says Ian Power, Raising Aspirations Co-ordinator at BSix. “The event at the University of York not only dispelled some myths but also raised aspirations through a balance of exciting academic material, a realistic approach to the application process and a taste of the social life available to them at University.”
Strategic partnerships, like this one, provide a vital path for underrepresented students into Higher Education
Ian Power, Raising Aspirations Co-ordinator at BSix
“Over two-thirds of our students receive the Education Maintenance Allowance and around 56% are Black Ethnic Minority. Strategic partnerships, like this one, provide a vital path for underrepresented students into Higher Education, especially now that funding for programmes of this nature is disappearing.”
BSix science students took part in academic workshops in the Departments of Linguistics, Chemistry and Biology, with each session aiming to demonstrate how science is used to solve real crimes on a daily basis. The range of courses on offer was designed to encourage the students to consider the wide choice of courses available to them in Higher Education.
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, Dom Watt, began the day by demonstrating how linguistics often played a major part in the conviction of criminals. The students were given the exclusive opportunity to listen to recordings of police interviews from the ‘Lord Buckingham’ stolen identity case of 2005. They were asked to decipher discrepancies in the man’s speech and decide on his country of origin. The accused, originally from Florida, managed to con everyone, including his wife and children, into believing he was a member of the British aristocracy.
Next, the students donned lab coats to take part in Dr Adrian Harrison’s Biology workshop, where they learnt the process by which DNA samples taken from crime suspects are matched to those found at the crime scene. They then gained some hands-on experience, analysing DNA fingerprints.
Dr Annie Hodgson from the Department of Chemistry followed up by teaching the students about the individuality of DNA coding. The students were able to create coloured bracelets, representing their names in a DNA code.
One student said, “It was great to learn more about other courses which previously were not my initial choices,” whilst others were amazed at the “unique combination of speech and DNA that were used to crack cases.”
The event was organised by the Widening Participation Team with academic colleagues in order to provide learning outside of the classroom, whilst giving students a taste of university life.
Liz McNeil, Widening Participation Manager, added, “We are committed to promoting wider access to the University and are looking forward to developing an innovative programme of activities here and in London with BSix.”