Forensic Analysis

fire debris at crime scene

The Forensic Analysis research area explores the chemical and biological analytical aspects of forensic science including evidence recovery methods, extraction of analytes from difficult and unusual matrices and the development and improvement of analytical methods for forensic samples.

This includes chemical analysis research on drug analysis, analysis of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), drug facilitated sexual assault, fire investigation, fire debris recovery and analysis of ignitable liquid residues, analysis of drugs and pharmaceuticals in the environment, analysis of pharmaceuticals in unusual matrices for wildlife conservation, analysis of drugs in unusual matrices in relation to forensic toxicology, work placed drug testing, analytical methods for diagnostic tools and biomarkers, forensic toxicology, method development and validation, detection and quantification of cocaine on new polymer banknotes, ageing of fingermarks and detection of body fluids under paint using vibrational spectroscopy techniques.

The biological analysis research includes body fluid identification using RNA analysis, body fluid identification using DNA methylation, DNA and RNA analysis from fingermarks treated with VMD and other fingermark enhancement methods, analysis of DNA and RNA from biological fluids and trace evidence.

The Forensic Analysis research area is part of the Forensic & Investigative Sciences Research Group.

We offer our Forensic & Investigative Sciences PhD. We've also identified a range of innovative research project opportunities for postgraduate researchers.


Find out more about our members by exploring their staff profiles.


Dr Lata Gautam in Forensic and Investigative Sciences, School of Life Sciences has just returned from Nepal after a series of outreach events.

Following on from last year’s capacity building training in Nepal funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and a national workshop on Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA) investigation funded by the Research and Innovation Development Office (RIDO), Dr Lata Gautam organised a series of outreach events in Nepal during the months of April, July and August in 2019.

The activities, funded by our Faculty of Science and Engineering and School of Life Science, mainly consisted of public awareness and outreach events as well as a multi-stakeholder consultation workshop on sexual assault and DFSA, organised at the national, sub-national and community levels in the country.

A number of in-country partners in Nepal supported these activities, including: UNESCO Schools’ Collaboration Council, The Biotechnology Society of Nepal, Neuro Nepal Foundation, Science Teachers’ Association in Nepal, Manohar Secondary School Resource Centre, National Forensic Science Laboratory, Central Police Forensic Science Laboratory and the National Examination Board of Nepal.

For school level activities, a number of awareness programmes were carried out in seventeen different schools over three provinces and six districts of Nepal. The multi-stakeholder engagement meeting in Kathmandu included many relevant stakeholders including the Honourable Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Secretary of Nepal Bar Association (legal body), Judge at the Kathmandu District Court, forensic scientists, crime scene officers, lawyers, medical students, medical professionals, researchers, and a number of civil society and non-state actors in Nepal.

The meetings were made up of presentations and innovative forms of public communications such as poetry, drama and mind-maps. These activities were followed up with a number of media coverages in Nepal, from newspaper stories and articles to TV coverage on Prime Time TV and a one-hour discussion on the Image Channel.

A community engagement and awareness event on DFSA was also organised in Kathmandu Metropolitan City, New Baneshwore, through the Community-Police Partnership programme and other non-governmental organisations. And a number of one-to-one meetings were held with key policy makers and stakeholders where key findings from Lata’s work on DFSA in Nepal was presented to the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Nepal Police and forensic professionals in the country.

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of 'First', our Faculty Research Newsletter.

Read more about read more about research and outreach activities in nepal.

Dr Lorna Nisbet has been asked to submit a paper to be included in the new edition of Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man.

Lorna, from our School of Life Sciences, has been asked to submit her paper ‘Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method for the quantitative identification of 23 new psychoactive substances in blood and urine’, that appeared this month in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, to be included in the new edition of the Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man.

This reference book is typically referred to as the ‘forensic toxicology bible’ and routinely relied upon when interpreting results and presenting information for court.

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of 'First', our Faculty Research Newsletter.

Read more about read more about dr lorna nisbet to be published in 'forensic toxicology bible'.

Dr Lorna Nisbet has been awarded £4K by the Royal Society of Chemistry to carry out in-vitro metabolism studies using the new psychoactive substance mexedrone.

Mexedrone is a synthetic cathinone with approximately 2/3rd the potency of mephedrone. Although this compound is currently banned by the New Psychoactive Substances Act seizures and presentations at emergency rooms are still occurring. Identification of the drug in biological materials is challenging as the degree to which it is metabolised within the body is currently unknown.

Lorna hopes this funding will allow her to collect data which can then be used when applying for larger grants. This funding will also allow Lorna to build upon the research she presented in Boca Raton.

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of 'First', our Faculty Research Newsletter.

Read more about read more about the funding awarded to forensic science.

Listen to Dr Lorna Nisbet talk about 'Criminal Chemistry: What's Your Poison?' on a recent podcast from The Naked Scientists.

A recent publication by Dr Lorna Nisbet has been cited in the United Chemical Technologies BlogNisbet L.A., Venson R., Wylie F.M. and Scott K.S., 2017. Application of a Urine and Hair Validated LC-MS-MS Method to Determine the Effect of Hair Color on the Incorporation of 25B-NBOMe, 25C-NBOMe and 25I-NBOMe into Hair in the Rat. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Jul 1;41(6), pp.559-565.

Dr Lorna Nisbet presented her research on 'New Psychoactive Substances' at the 5th Joint SOFT/TIAFT 2017 meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, USA.

Drink spiking

Dr Lata Gautam was awarded funding by the Drinkware Charity to investigate evidence-based research on drink spiking in 2022. She has also been working with Cambridgeshire Constabulary. To read more about this research, please visit ARU and Drinkaware launch UK drink spiking study.

Media coverage of drink spiking can be accessed here: BBC World Service, Food Chain (March 2022) and ABC Television’s The Drum programme (November 2022). Finally, to listen to podcast on drink spiking with Dr Suzi Gaze, you can click here: Dr Lata Gautam - Say Why To Drugs | Acast ( (November 2021).

Dr Gautam was part of a ‘sounding board’ for Spiking: what universities can do ( published in September 2022.

County lines

Dr Nathalie Zahra and Dr Lata Gautam received funding from ARU’s Safe and Inclusive Communities to research on county lines where they have evaluated student’s awareness and vulnerability towards County Lines and Cuckooing. In this project, they have worked with colleagues from SEROCU (Southeast Regional Organised Crime Unit), ERSOU (Eastern Region Special Operations Unit) as well as David Walmsley (ARU Deputy Safeguarding Lead).

Race Equality related research activities and news

Dr Lata Gautam and Dr Nathalie Zahra were awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Inclusion and Diversity Grant in October 2020 to research on enablers and barriers for Black Chemists (students and professionals) in their education and workplace. To read more about this project, please visit here: Faculty news - ARU, Spring 2022 issue. This research was expanded to B.A.ME. students in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Dr Lata Gautam and Ms Joanne Morrissey have been researching on ‘the under-representation of B.A.ME. community in forensic science’ . Funding was awarded by the Safe and Inclusive Communities, ARU in 2022. This project is currently being expanded with colleagues from different universities and further funding has been applied.

With Dr Samantha Tipper, Dr Lata Gautam conducted research on ‘sense of belonging in STEM’ funded by Access and Participation Plans, ARU in 2022. They are presenting research findings in October 2022 in Athens, Greece during the 5th International Academic Conference on Teaching, Learning and Education.

You can read about ‘getting comfortable with being uncomfortable’ – an event organised by ATHENA SWAN and FSE race equality group. To read about faculty research news, please visit our faculty research newsletter here.

Media outputs

Conferences and presentations

Forensic and Investigative Sciences researchers presented at the European Academy of Forensic Sciences (May/June 2022). You can read more information here: Faculty news - ARU.

A Forensic Science Graduate presented at the World Police Summit 2022 in Dubai, Faculty news - ARU (spring 2022 issue). This presentation was part of her undergraduate research project.

Gautam, L., 'Unique challenge: Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault'. 16th Bigyan Chautari organised by Annapurna Research Centre, Nepal, 2018.

Gautam, L. and Pathak, R., 'Usefulness of hair analysis in Forensic Science'. 20th International Hair Science Symposium - HairS’ 17, Dresden, Germany, 7 September 2017.

Nisbet, L., 'Stability of Synthetic Cathinones in Biological and Non-Biological Matrices'. Oral presentation. Eastern Analytical Symposium, November 2016.

Gautam, L., 'Detection of drugs of abuse and pharmaceutical compounds from alternative matrices'. First Forensic Science Conference, Kingston University, UK, 3 April 2017

Nisbet, L., 'Combating Novel Psychoactive Substances - an analytical viewpoint'. Oral presentation. Chartered Society of Forensic Science conference, June 2017.

Nisbet, L., 'Optimising existing techniques to enhance the detection of new psychoactive substances in biological matrices'. Oral presentation. 4th Advances in Forensics & Toxicology eSeminar, November 2017.

Gautam, L., 'Importance of alternative sample analysis in forensic investigation of Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault'. First International Forensic Conference (FIFC), Kuwait, 29 January 2017.

Peng, Y., Hall, S., and Gautam, L., 'Detection of drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals in drinking water'. Oral presentation, International Conference on Environmental Pollution and Public Health, China, May 2016.

Hall, S., White, G., and Gautam, L., 'A novel adsorbent for the recovery and positive identification of ignitable liquids using GC-MS-ATD'. Oral presentation. 18th edition of EuroAnalysis, The European Conference on Analytical Chemistry, Bordeaux, September 2015.

Gautam, L., 'Spiked Beverage Analysis in Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults'. United Kingdom and Ireland Association of Forensic Toxicologists (UKIAFT) meeting, LGC Teddington, UK, 2015

Key publications

Nisbet, L.A., Wylie, F.M., Logan, B.K. and Scott, K.S., 2019. Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry Method for the Quantitative Identification of 23 New Psychoactive Substances in Blood and Urine. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 43(5), pp.346–352,

Zahra, N., 2018. Biological Evidence: collection, transportation and storage. In: Mozayani, A. and Parish Fisher, C., (eds.), Forensic evidence management. Boca Raton, CRC Press, pp.29-42.

Nisbet L.A., Venson R., Wylie F.M. and Scott K.S., 2017. Application of a Urine and Hair Validated LC-MS-MS Method to Determine the Effect of Hair Color on the Incorporation of 25B-NBOMe, 25C-NBOMe and 25I-NBOMe into Hair in the Rat”. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Jul 1;41(6), pp.559-565.

Jung S., Cho S., Antunes J., Gomes, I., Uchimoto M.L., Oh Y.N., Giacomo L., Schneider P.M., Park M.S., van der Meer D., Williams G., McCord B., Ahn H., Choi D.H., Lee Y.H., Lee S.D. and Lee H.Y., 2016. A collaborative exercise on DNA methylation based body fluid typing. Electrophoresis, 37(21), pp.2759-2766.

Zahra, N. and Goodwin, W., 2016. The development and use of Internal Amplification Controls (IACs) with DNA profiling kits for forensic DNA Analysis. In: Goodwin, W., (ed.), Forensic DNA Typing Protocols, 2nd ed. Humana Press, Ch.8, pp109-124.

Peng, Y., Hall, S., Gautam., L., 2016. Drugs of abuse in drinking water - a review of current detection methods, occurrence, elimination and health risks. Trends in Analytical Chemistry. 85: Part C. pp.232-240.