Case study

Not just watching the detectives – working with them too

You can’t watch CSI East Midlands on Netflix – or anywhere else on TV. But, if you could, you’d see our Forensic Science student Rebekah Muldowney. Halfway through her course at the University of Derby, she finds herself working with police forensics officers and detectives as part of her extended work placement.

Standing out from the crowd

Rebekah Muldowney, from Swadlincote in Derbyshire, is keen to work in Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) once she graduates from our Forensic Science BSc (Hons) course. She knows CSI vacancies are few and far between and competition for the jobs is extremely high.

But our course has given Rebekah the chance to make herself stand out from the crowd. She has taken the option of an extended work placement after her second year and she is now based at the CSI Unit with Nottinghamshire Police, part of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit - Forensic Science (EMSOU-FS).

“A placement seemed like a great opportunity to gain real world experience on the job,” says Rebekah. “Completing a work placement will enhance the list of other extra curricular activities and skills that I am building in my Forensic Employability Skills Portfolio to attempt to set myself against the competition when it comes to applying for a job.”

Rebekah Muldowney in our Forensic Training Facility
Rebekah Muldowney in our Forensic Training Facility

On the scene

And the placement has already exceeded her expectations. She had thought her role would be primarily admin based but every day of her placement so far has been a real “day in the life” of a CSI.

“I have had the opportunity to go out to crime scenes every day with different levels of CSI,” says Rebekah. “Some days are volume scenes, such as burglaries and break-ins, or visiting a victim of assault to take injury photographs, or cutting the airbags from a car for DNA analysis.

“Other days have been murder scenes wearing full PPE – personal protective equipment.”

A police evidence bag

Collecting evidence

Rebekah has helped collect evidence at the crime scenes, observing but also assisting with finger mark and footwear mark enhancement and recovery. She has also met detectives and spoken with them about the cases they are working on.

She explains: “My line manager and the other CSIs have been fully supportive in allowing me to accompany them to scenes I wouldn't have imagined going to in my first few weeks!

“Following scene visits, I have accompanied the CSI back to the office and assisted with uploading scene photography and inputting details of the case onto the force systems.

“I have also accompanied my line manager to a meeting with a Senior Investigating Officer.”

Rebekah Muldowney in a room at our Forensic Training Facility

Putting theory into practice

Rebekah says her placement is allowing her to put into practice the theory that she learned at the University and to understand how it translates into a real working environment.

“It is enhancing my knowledge,” she says. “And, because I am experiencing the practical aspects of the job every day, I am becoming more familiar with techniques and procedures that we don't have chance to practice every day at University.

“And, each time I go out with someone new, I have the opportunity to get to know them, and see how everybody works.”

Crime tape at a crime scene with forensic scientists working in full personal protective equipment

Take your chance

Rebekah has some straightforward advice for anyone interested in doing a work placement as part of their course.

“Do it!” she says. “Just grab every opportunity you can to get experience! I have gained an insight into just how hard it is to get a job as a CSI so, without this opportunity, I wouldn't stand a chance. I am working a part-time job at weekends as well as my placement Monday to Friday - but I am loving every minute.

“I was worried about adding an extra year on to my studies, especially being a mature student, but the experience that I am gaining is invaluable."